'Summer travel ... on fire.' High gas prices not deterring travelers

·5 min read
AAA says high gas prices aren't deterring people from making summer travel plans. "Based on our projections, summer travel isn't just heating up, it will be on fire," said Paula Twidale, senior vice president of AAA Travel.
AAA says high gas prices aren't deterring people from making summer travel plans. "Based on our projections, summer travel isn't just heating up, it will be on fire," said Paula Twidale, senior vice president of AAA Travel.

Whether you plan to fly the friendly skies or sail a ribbon of highway for your Memorial Day weekend, rest assured you'll be joined by many other people emerging from their COVID cocoons.

"Based on our projections, summer travel isn’t just heating up, it will be on fire," said Paula Twidale, senior vice president of AAA Travel, the American Automobile Club's travel agency.

The holiday marks the unofficial start to summer. AAA estimates that 39.2 million people, including nearly 1.5 million Ohioans, will travel more than 50 miles from home over the holiday weekend, which runs today through Monday.

For Ohio, the number reflects an increase of nearly 7%, said Kimberly Schwind, executive director of public affairs for the AAA Ohio Auto Club.

"We are looking at travel to almost completely rebound to 2019 levels," before the pandemic, she said. "People are overdue for a vacation and they're looking to catch up on much needed R&R."

How is the weather looking in Northeast Ohio?

Those who regularly watch the skies in Northeast Ohio say don't hesitate to break out that picnic basket either.

"Right now, it's looking pretty good for most of the (northern Ohio) area," said Brian Mitchell, meteorologist with the National Weather Service in the Cleveland office. "We're looking dry with a warming trend as we go from near normal highs in the mid 70s on Saturday and then getting into 80 on Sunday and maybe up into the mid 80s on Memorial Day."

A little rain may fall before then.

The National Weather Service issued a hazardous weather statement Wednesday, saying that showers and thunderstorms today may be severe: "Damaging wind gusts are the primary threat, but large hail and a tornado or two are possible."

The forecast for the Akron-Canton area showed a 90% chance of rain tonight  and Friday. While there remained a 30% chance of rain on Saturday, skies Sunday and Monday were expected to be sunny.

An Allegiant Air flight to Punta Gorda, Florida, takes off from a runway in March as Allegiant Air resumed service at the Akron-Canton Airport.
An Allegiant Air flight to Punta Gorda, Florida, takes off from a runway in March as Allegiant Air resumed service at the Akron-Canton Airport.

'Airports are going to be busy.'

The AAA Ohio Auto Club is predicting a 20% increase in air travel.

"As we continue to move forward from the pandemic glow in terms of air travel, we continue to see rebounds in the number of people traveling by air," Schwind said.

"People need to keep in mind the airports are going to be busy," she added. "We have a huge demand, but the capacity hasn't reached that level. There will be less non-stop and more connecting flights, less availability, flights will be full. ... We are seeing a ripple effect across the country. So check your flight status before you leave home."

AAA recommends arriving at the airport two hours before flights to domestic locations and three hours before international flights.

Akron-Canton Airport says it's ready for travelers

Lisa Dalpiaz, vice president of marketing and air service development at the Akron-Canton Airport, said TSA agents are waiting and "We're ready to welcome everyone here."

The airport is expecting an increase in passengers, but it also features more flights this year, she said.

"We have 19 nonstop destinations and even more leisure destinations than before," Dalpiaz said, noting that Allegiant Airlines boasts four to destinations in Florida and Georgia, and Breeze Airways is starting a new route to Nashville.

She added that masks are no longer mandatory on flights, "but if folks feel comfortable wearing it, they're more than welcome to."

Hitting the highway: Best/worst times to travel on Memorial Day weekend

Motorists wanting to avoid crowded highways will want to plan ahead.

"The busiest highway travel times are expected to be the afternoons of Thursday, May 26, and Friday, May 27," Schwind said.

The agency lists the best and worst times to travel, based on information from INRIX, an analytics firm that provides location-based data and analytics:

  • Thursday: Worst time, 1 to 8 p.m. Best time, before 6 a.m. or after 9 p.m.

  • Friday: Worst time, noon to 7 p.m. Best time, before 7 a.m. or after 9 p.m.

  • Saturday: Worst time, 1 to 6 p.m. Best time, before 10 a.m.

  • Sunday: Worst time, 1 to 4 p.m. Best time, before 10 a.m.

  • Memorial Day: Worst time, 1 to 4 p.m. Best time, before 11 a.m.

Where is everyone going for Memorial Day?

"Certainly with the higher gas prices, a lot of people are opting for shorter road trips and there's lots to do in Ohio," Schwind said.

Many Ohioans are choosing destinations within a six-hour drive, although there are people hitting East Coast beaches and going to Florida.

"We've also been seeing Tennessee becoming very popular for road trips. Gatlinburg, Pigeon Forge, the Great Smoky Mountains and also Nashville," she said.

How are gas prices impacting travel?

The average price nationwide for a gallon of regular gas hit $4.599 on Wednesday — a record high. It was $4.50 in Ohio.

Still, people want to get out and go.

"Maybe they'll stay one day less or cut out some shopping or opt for less expensive activities," Schwind said. "They'll look for ways to compensate for those higher travel costs for their trip. They may go in with family or friends and rent a vacation home to share those costs."

One way to get a handle on those costs, or at least have a idea of what they will be can be found on the AAA website at gasprices.aaa.com. The website shows the national averages that can be found by county and city.

Schwind said it also contains a gas cost calculator.

"If you are wondering how much your Memorial Day road trip may cost in gas, you can type in your starting point, your destination and make and model of car and you can calculate how much you can expect to spend per trip," she said.

"You can get an idea of how much you're going to spend as you're trying to budget for your trip. So at least you can get an idea of what it's going to cost."

This article originally appeared on The Repository: AAA predicts Memorial Day weekend travel "will be on fire"