How to beat the travel crowds this Memorial Day weekend
Summer travel figures to pick up as the world returns to relative normalcy after two-plus years of living under the cloud of COVID-19. Memorial Day weekend marks the unofficial beginning of summer, and this year the roads figure to be as busy as ever.
Data from AAA Travel indicated that more than 37 million people expected to travel 50 miles or more over Memorial Day weekend in 2021. That figure is likely to grow in 2022 as millions more individuals, including young children, are now eligible to be vaccinated against COVID-19.
Travelers concerned about the prospect of sitting in traffic jams this Memorial Day weekend can heed these tips to ensure their weekends are more fun than frustrating.
· Avoid peak travel times. The easiest way to find yourself stuck in Memorial Day traffic is to hit the road during peak travel times. Many people have embraced the "leave early" trend to holiday weekend travel, so the roads may be busier than drivers would expect on Thursday afternoon and evening. If it's possible, drivers can hit the road prior to 3 p.m. Thursday. If work and kids' school schedules make that impossible, delay your departure until late Thursday night or before the sun rises on Friday morning. Late at night or very early in the morning might not make for the most accommodating travel time, but roads tend to be the least congested at these times.
· Expect the trip to take longer than planned. Delays are possible, if unlikely, even if you travel during off-peak hours. Recognition of that can make traffic jams or flight delays a little easier to manage. Parents can prepare kids for delays by letting them know in advance that some setbacks are possible. Build expected delays into your itinerary so you aren't stressing out about missing anything. If travelers luck out and experience no delays, then the weekend begins that much sooner.
· Do your part. If you're traveling by air, confirm everything you'll need to get through security and onto the plane as quickly as possible. Make sure passports and other forms of identification are current. Pack bags wisely so there are no surprises at check-in time. The more details you tend to in advance of your departure, the less stressful your travel day will be.
· Consider a local destination. Another way to beat the crowds is to avoid joining them. The National Ocean and Atmospheric Administration estimates that roughly 40 percent of the American population lives in coastal communities. That means more than 120 million Americans can drive to coastal areas without having to traverse potentially congested highways and interstates. Stay local for busy travel weekends like Memorial Day and reserve longer trips for other times of the year when fewer people are on the road.
Memorial Day travel is historically heavy. Savvy vacationers can employ various strategies to avoid the crowds this year.