Despite all the obstacles they're facing, AAA recently projected that the number of Americans traveling this Labor Day holiday weekend will increase nearly 10 percent from 2009, with approximately 34.4 million travelers taking a trip at least 50 miles away from home.
First, there's the breaking news about Hurricane Earl. The storm traveled across northeastern Caribbean on Monday, and became a Category 4 as it heads toward the U.S. The Category 4 storm is not expected to make landfall, but is expected to swipe North Carolina late Thursday and travel up the East Coast on Friday and Saturday.
The hurricane was officially "named" by the National Hurricane Center on Sunday, August 29. That means, in many cases, travel insurance policies must have been purchased on or before Saturday, August 28 for covered benefits to apply.
If you purchased travel insurance, read your policy carefully to see what is covered. If your flight is canceled, your resort is deemed uninhabitable, or your airport is closed, you're probably covered. But if you can get to your destination and you have a terrible time due to rain and winds, chance are you're not covered.
Several airlines have already had to cancel flights due to the hurricane. American Airlines, for example, has canceled as many as 83 flights, mainly in San Juan, Puerto Rico and the Caribbean.
Normal operations resumed as of Tuesday, with the exception of Providenciales in Turks and Caicos due to winds.
If your flight wasn't canceled, several airlines were allowing customers to rebook their travel without incurring change fees or fare differences.
That includes JetBlue, which is allowing customers to voluntarily rebook their travel between now and September 7, 2010, for travel to, from or through St. Maarten and several airports in Puerto Rico; United has issued a rebooking waiver for San Juan; and Continental is allowing travelers to reschedule by September 14 with no change fees or fare difference for travel to, from or through San Juan, Antigua, and St. Maarten.
Please note that at press time, many of these waivers applied only for travel through August 31, 2010, but check with your specific airline to see if the offer has been extended.
If that's not complicated enough, the recent bankruptcy of Mexicana Airlines has left many travelers in limbo. Some alliance partners are stepping in to pick up some of that business: American Airlines and American Eagle is offering 20 percent off any published fare for customers who have confirmed bookings on a canceled Mexicana flight; Continental is allowing Mexicana customers who purchased their tickets on or before August 28, 2010 for travel through September 4, 2010, to purchase standby tickets for $100 each way (plus taxes).
If you haven't made plans, not all is lost. There are still some last-minute deals out there. (Please note that all deals are based on availability and are subject to change.)
You'll notice that the best fares for air travel tend to fall on Saturday, September 4; Sunday, September 5, and Wednesday, September 8. Peak travel dates on Friday, Monday and Tuesday will be pricier.
Frontier Airlines' Labor Day sale is good for for travel on September 4, 5 and 8, with fares as low as $50 each way to destinations like Denver, New Orleans and Santa Barbara. But hurry, this deal expires September 3, 2010. Frontiers has also brought back its Mexico fare sale, which also needs to be purchased by September 3. Fares are as low as $107 each way to Cabo, Cancun, Cozumel and Mazatlan.
American Airlines' sale is also valid for travel on September 4, 5 and 8, with fares starting from $68 each way between Denver and Los Angeles; Colorado Springs to New Orleans is from $99 each way; and Louisville to Las Vegas is from only $124 each way.
In fact, it's hard NOT to find a bargain in Las Vegas these days. Just look at online travel site Vegas.com, and you'll find deals like 30 percent off at the Hard Rock; up to 40 percent off a four-night stay at The Palms; and 30 percent off stays through September 29, 2010 at the Green Valley Ranch.
In Mexico, deals are starting to appear in honor of its 200th anniversary of independence on September 16. For example, the Hacienda Beach Club and Residences in Cabo is knocking off $200 off rental rates through the month of September, dropping the price from $550 to about $350 a night.
Ocean Breeze Hotels in the Riviera Maya has a getaway deal valid through September 15 from $99 a night, per person. That includes a free round of golf and two kids under 12 stay for free with parents.
Villa La Estancia Nuevo Vallarta Beach Resort and Spa, a five-star luxury resort in Puerto Vallarta, is offering "ultra-inclusive" deals from $488 a night, which represents up to half off regular rates. A minimum three-night stay is required, and includes villa accommodations, daily gourmet meals, high tea, and premium cocktails, spa services, golf, and more.
Royal Hideaway Playacar, and all-inclusive, adults-only hotel (winner of a AAA Five Diamond Award) is offering hotel is offering 30 percent off nightly rates (starting from $278 per person, per night) for travel throughout 2010.
And, of course there are our friends in the Gulf Coast, who still need your travel dollars to recover from the devastating hit from the oil spill. Several area hotels are offering "clean beach guarantees," which means they'll waive any cancellation or early departure fees if your beach is closed due the oil spill. Visit
Lastly, here are some tips to get you through your Labor Day travels:
• Try to leave Thursday night, preferably after 8 p.m. if you're driving.
• If you're flying, expect that plane to be full. Try to bring carry-on bags only (it's just a weekend!)
• Print out your boarding pass 24 hours in advance and you'll be less likely to be bumped.
• When going to the airport, don't go to departures. It will be a zoo. Instead, head to arrivals and take the escalator upstairs. It will save you at least 10 minutes of wading through traffic and crowds.