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Record travel expected Labor Day weekend despite Idalia impact

Busy Labor Day travel weekend predicted
Busy Labor Day travel weekend predicted 01:57

Planning a Labor Day getaway? Better hit the road soon — so are a lot of other people.

On Friday, roads will be busiest from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m., Robert Sinclair Jr., senior manager of public affairs for AAA Northeast, told CBS New York

Nationally, gas prices stood at an average $3.77 per gallon Friday morning, according to GasBuddy, down nearly 3 cents from last year.

Prices likely won't deter travelers, though. "No matter how expensive gas prices are, when people decide to go on vacation, they just budget in the price of gas," said AAA spokesperson Andrew Gross told CBS News' Kris Van Cleave. "They're gonna take that trip."

That's partly because there's still pent-up wanderlust from pandemic lockdowns — and also because people are still shunning public transportation, Sinclair said.

GasBuddy advises travelers should compare prices before filling up — and be especially wary when crossing state lines as they travel. The site notes prices near those boundaries "often become much more volatile. Shopping around before crossing state lines can save motorists 25-30 cents per gallon in some situations."

Sinclair said gas prices, while cheaper than last year, are approaching the mark that drivers have said will make them curtail their trips. They won't necessarily be foregoing travel entirely, but might take shorter trips, he said. 

"We did a survey of AAA Northeast members, they tell us they're traveling 50 to 200 miles. I remember in years gone by, the average trip would be 500 to 1,000 miles, so I think that's the concession to these high gasoline prices we see," he told CBS New York.

Those taking to the skies for the holiday — more than 250,000 flights are scheduled through Tuesday, according to the Federal Aviation Administration — are increasingly headed abroad, with international bookings up 44%, according to AAA data. Demand for hotel rooms overseas is up more than 80%, Sinclair said, and overseas cruise bookings are up 40%.

Labor Day Holiday Weekend Travelers at Chicago's O'Hare Airport
Travelers arrive at O'Hare International Airport in Chicago on Sept. 1, 2023. According to AAA, Labor Day weekend air travel is up over last year, with domestic bookings climbing 4% and international bookings up 44%.  / Getty Images

Air travel for the weekend was proceeding smoothly, despite Hurricane Idalia's landfall in Florida and the storm's drenching Georgia and the Carolinas earlier this week. The TSA has screened more than 227 million passengers since Memorial Day, with another 14 million expected by Tuesday.

No cancellations were reported Friday at either Miami International Airport or Tampa International Airport and just two at Fort Lauderdale International Airport, according to tracking service FlightAware. Miami and Fort Lauderdale had the most delays of any major metropolitan area in the U.S. on Thursday night, according to FlightAware, but only one flight had been canceled between the two airports at the time. The two Florida airports had 42 and 55 flights delayed as of Friday morning, respectively.

The Transportation Security Administration expected to screen 14.25 million passengers and crew between Friday and Wednesday, which officials said is an 11% increase over last year. The heaviest days for car travel are expected to be Thursday and Friday, according to AAA, with heavy auto travel between 10 a.m. and 6 p.m. on Monday.

And once the holiday is over, travelers could see gas prices decline. 

"I do think that the trend will remain downward for the potentially the next few weeks, (vo) especially as we get into mid- and late September. That's when a combination of the transition back to cheaper winter gasoline and falling gasoline demand should pave the way for lower prices, and if things go well, if there are no surprises or curve balls, the national average could fall 35 to 50 cents a gallon by the end of the year," said Patrick DeHaan, fuel analyst with GasBuddy.

Still, Labor Day is the last chance of the summer for people to get away.

"We usually never travel on the holidays because of the crowds and the gas prices but we have a friend and just want to get out of the heat," one man told Van Cleave.

–Kris Van Cleave and Haley Ott contributed to this report.

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