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Illustration: Rae Cook/Axios

Many summer travelers may wish they stayed home.

Why it matters: Travel is returning to pre-pandemic levels at a time when the country remains divided on masks and vaccinations — and worker shortages mean reduced service levels, yet higher prices.

By the numbers: More than 37 million people are expected to travel 50 miles or more this Memorial Day weekend (6 million fewer than in 2019), according to AAA.

  • Of those, 34 million are planning road trips.
  • Airfares are going up steadily around 12%, according to TripActions.
  • Hotel occupancy is at 60% with weekly room demand at 80% or more of 2019 levels. Daily rates are down 15% compared to 2019 but growing.
  • Gas prices have exceeded $4 west of Colorado, with the national average now $3.04 a gallon, according to AAA.

What they're saying: Because parts of Europe are still closed off to travelers, summer travel this year will be domestic — meaning travelers should also expect culture clashes, The Points Guy founder Brian Kelly tells Axios.

  • For the better part of a year, people have remained in communities that shared the same beliefs when it comes to COVID precautions and vaccines. Now, with massive domestic travel, "you have anti-maskers on planes with those who are petrified," Kelly says.
  • "I thought people would savor travel and be kind to one another, but unfortunately due to the fact that we’re living in two Americas ... it's only going to get worse," he added.

What to watch: Expect jammed roadways, full planes, long TSA lines, slower room service, and some unruly passengers.

Go deeper

Aug 30, 2021 - World

European Union recommends halting non-essential travel from the U.S.

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen. Photo: Valeria Mongelli/Hans Lucas/Bloomberg via Getty Images

The Council of the European Union voted on Monday to recommend reinstating a ban on non-essential travel from the United States due to its high rate of COVID-19 infections.

Why it matters: The decision, which is non-binding and will ultimately be up to individual member states to implement, comes after weeks of EU officials criticizing the Biden administration for not lifting U.S. restrictions on travel from Europe.

Updated 35 mins ago - Health

WHO: Delta health measures help fight Omicron

Photo: Mario Tama/Getty Images

Health measures taken to combat COVID-19 before the emergence of Omicron would also help against the new variant of concern, World Health Organization officials said Friday.

What they're saying: Takeshi Kasai, WHO regional director for the Western Pacific, said during a virtual briefing broadcast from Manila, Philippines, that border controls imposed by the U.S. and other nations can "buy time" to deal with the variant, but warned "every country and every community must prepare for new surges in cases."

2 hours ago - Health

Nevada to impose insurance surcharge on unvaccinated state workers

Nevada Gov. Steve Sisolak. Photo: Ethan Miller/Getty Images

Nevada's Public Employees' Benefit Program Board voted Thursday to charge workers enrolled in public employee health insurance plans a surcharge of up to $55 a month if they're not vaccinated against COVID-19, the Las Vegas Review-Journal reports.

Why it matters: Nevada is the first state to announce such a move, per AP.

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