AAA doesn’t have a travel forecast for the upcoming Labor Day holiday, but experts with the motor club organization said Wednesday people are likely heading out in droves, even as the highly contagious delta strain of the coronavirus fuels spikes in cases nationwide.
The anticipated high travel numbers are partly due to people being antsy to hit the road after being stuck inside during last year’s holiday, when the country was in the throes of the pandemic.
Another indicator is the surge in travel over the recent Fourth of July holiday weekend. In the D.C. region, about 1.3 million people traveled at least 50 miles from their homes during the holiday — a 70% increase from last year.
About 1.2 million of those people drove, the highest number of auto travel around the Fourth of July in the Washington metropolitan area since 2001, AAA said.
The experts predict more of the same for Labor Day (Sept. 6) — considered the unofficial end of summer — especially with many school districts returning to full-time in-person learning this fall.
“Folks are just waiting to get that last trip in before the summer ends,” said Debra Calvert, managing director of merchandise and auto travel with AAA.
Calvert and other AAA officials held a virtual media briefing with travel advice for those who still plan to travel and stay at hotels.
A few such tips are knowing a hotel’s cancellation policy, whether pools and gyms are accessible and whether using technology such as a smartphone is an option for check-in without waiting in line at the front desk.
With COVID-19 restrictions varying in different jurisdictions and states, experts said certain foods and beverages may be limited without the buffet-style options.
If traveling to another state, one should know that state’s particular data for confirmed COVID-19 cases and vaccinations, as well as its mask requirements.
Stacey Barber, AAA executive director of travel, said the organization hasn’t offered recommendations for travelers who remain unvaccinated because “it’s really a personal decision.”
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, about 70% of U.S. residents 18 and older have gotten at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine. No vaccine has yet been approved for children younger than 12.
Barber said travelers should read and follow the CDC guidelines.
“With those changing so fluidly, we definitely suggest you check on that before you are about to make any travel plans,” she said.
John Lubanski, regional manager with AAA National and former cleaning inspector, said travelers can walk around a room and do a self-check, with bathrooms a good gauge for whether conditions are sanitary.
If a person still has concerns about cleanliness, they should bring sanitizing wipes to use on surfaces such as chairs, desks and door handles.
“When you find a really clean bathroom in your room, that’s usually a good indication they’ve done a good job of cleaning everything,” he said. “If [guests] really have concerns about cleanliness … before you start unpacking your suitcase, you bring it to the hotel management’s attention and maybe they can put you in another room.”
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