Holiday travel is somehow even more uncertain than a year ago after a summer of airline turbulence


Dallas travel agent Alex Ramsey is getting questions daily from customers uncertain about booking holiday trips.

“Are Americans allowed to travel to Europe?”

“Will hotels and restaurants have enough employees?”

And the newest query brought on by recent turbulence: “Will my flight be delayed or canceled?”

“I’m telling people that the first thing they need to pack is their patience,” said Ramsey, president of All Aboard Travel. “If you are a type-A personality that needs everything to go perfectly, you will run into trouble.”

Even after a summer of packed airplanes, flight cancellations and face mask battles, airlines are preparing their biggest flight schedules in nearly two years while also scrambling to replenish staffing levels and amid employee pushback over government-required vaccine mandates.

And gone are the perks of flying during a pandemic. Prices will be higher and planes will be more packed than a year ago.

An American Eagle and American Airlines planes make their way toward the runway before taking off at DFW International Airport.

Airlines

Hundreds of American Airlines regional flight attendants vote to strike, but walkout still distant

Flight attendants at one of American Airlines’ regional carrier voted unanimously to strike, setting up a showdown with the company over wages and benefits even though an actual strike is still a distant possibility. Piedmont employees represented by the Association of Flight Attendants have spent the last three years trying to negotiate a new contract with claims that starting flight attendants make less than $17,000 a year and ten-year veterans make only $28,000 a year. The union says that negotiates have stalled after the company offered a new contract with small pay increases and increased health premiums.

It’s a backdrop that’s giving travelers pause, especially with the chaos of Columbus Day weekend fresh in their memories. That’s when Dallas-based Southwest Airlines canceled thousands of flights, citing weather and staffing issues while stranding travelers at airports around the country. It cost the airline $75 million in lost revenue.

The holiday travel season is typically more stressful, with planes loaded with leisure travelers eager to arrive at destinations on time and winter storms looming as a constant threat.

“You do have to wonder if these airlines are prepared for the holidays when there could be significant problems with weather and pressure is high over a short period of time,” said Henry Harteveldt, a travel analyst with Atmosphere Research Group.

Passengers wait in line to rebook their canceled American Airlines flight in Terminal D at DFW Airport Friday, October 1, 2021. (Tom Fox/The Dallas Morning News)
Passengers wait in line to rebook their canceled American Airlines flight in Terminal D at DFW Airport Friday, October 1, 2021. (Tom Fox/The Dallas Morning News)(Tom Fox)

Are airlines prepared?

The airline and travel industry is anticipating a 2021 holiday season much bigger than last year, but still down slightly from 2019.

Southwest’s flight schedule is about 12% smaller than it was in 2019.

Fort Worth-based American Airlines is planning to put more than 6,400 flights in the air during its busiest day this season on Nov. 28, the Sunday following Thanksgiving, according to Diio by Cirium. That’s only about 5% fewer flights than it had in 2019 before the COVID-19 pandemic.

Yet airline executives spent the last two weeks trying to convince travelers and investors that flight delays and cancellations plaguing the summer and fall months won’t be a repeat occurrence during the holidays.

Southwest Airlines said Thursday that it will further reduce its upcoming travel schedule — fallout from being forced to cancel more than 2,000 flights earlier this month because of weather and air traffic control backups during a single afternoon in Florida. Southwest said it had relied on staffing models that it used before the pandemic.

“We had 15,000 people that were out on leave so an assumption I made was that we were going to call them and say ‘Okay, it’s time to come back,’ and they are going to show up and everything was going to be just like it was,” Southwest CEO Gary Kelly said. “And it’s just not.”

Aggressive flight schedules to capitalize on consumer demand can push airlines to a breaking point when all doesn’t go to plan. Southwest Airlines’ Columbus Day weekend schedule was its busiest since the pandemic began and the Florida-centered problems resulted in pilots and flight crews being out of sync with subsequent flights.

That meltdown was followed by rumors that pilots had walked off the job to protest a White House mandate to require COVID-19 vaccinations for federal contractors such as Southwest Airlines. Both the airline and the Southwest Airlines Pilots Association denied any attempt by pilots to disrupt flights. However, the union has sued the airline in federal court to stop the mandate.

The CEOs at Southwest and American spent last week trying to assure employees they wouldn’t be fired if they weren’t vaccinated, at least as long as they sought an exemption for religious or medical purposes.

“We are not going to let this disrupt any of our customers’ travel, especially during the busy holiday season,” Kelly said.

American Airlines President Robert Isom said demand is strong from passengers.

“We’re getting ready for the holiday season and we expect a lot of passengers and tremendous pent-up demand, especially as vaccinations take hold [and] infection rates decline,” Isom said. “We’re going to be ready. We’re doing our best to make sure that we have the right people in the right places at the right time.”

Passengers look for information on their flights on Oct. 10 at Dallas Love Field.
Passengers look for information on their flights on Oct. 10 at Dallas Love Field. (Julie March / ASSOCIATED PRESS)

Airfares and labor shortages

Travelers could be looking at a far different experience than last year.

Some Christmastime airfares are approaching what they were in 2019, said Adit Damodaran, an economist with travel website Hopper.

This year, the average roundtrip ticket for flying within the U.S. is selling for about $300 for Thanksgiving and $390 for Christmas, according to Hopper. That’s compared to 2020, when tickets were $245 at Thanksgiving and $250 at Christmas. Roundtrip tickets in 2019 were about $335 at Thanksgiving and $390 at Christmas.

That means this year’s fares are about 55% higher than last year, when prices hit the lowest point in decades due to weak customer demand.

“Things have really taken off in the last few weeks with the decrease in cases from the delta variant,” Damodaran said. “The best time to buy is usually before Halloween, before November starts.”

After vaccination rates took off in spring, more people grew comfortable with traveling over the summer months, said Erin Francis-Cummings, president of consumer research firm Destinations Analysts.

Now they’re ready to get back on planes again, she said.

“Connecting with family and friends is still the driver for the holidays,” she said. “It’s heart-warming to see that people still need one another and those connections are so powerful that they overcome some of the other worries.”

Holiday travel will be focused on domestic destinations, mostly people visiting friends and family. Once travelers arrive at their destinations, they’re likely to encounter other pandemic-related problems.

Hotels and restaurants are understaffed, said Ramsey, the Dallas travel agent. “You just can’t expect the kind of service you had before.”

Ramsey estimates that 50% or more of travelers are delaying trips, particularly major vacations.

“Before the delta variant spike, people were planning trips for Christmas, but then they started canceling in September,” she said. “It’s going to take time, maybe years, because this is the new normal. This isn’t going away.”

An attendant checks in passengers for a Southwest Airlines flight in Portland, Maine, during an October weekend that saw the carrier cancel several thousand flights.

Airlines

October’s cancellation meltdown costs Southwest Airlines $75 million

Southwest’s operational challenges earlier this month cost the company $75 million in revenue, the result of canceling more than 2,000 flights over Columbus Day weekend.Dallas-based Southwest Airlines said it spent some $75 million on “customer refunds and gesture of goodwill,” a bigger loss in revenue than it logged for the lingering effects of the COVID-19 delta variant in the month, which was $40 million.



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Jet2.com releases summer 2023 holiday programme | News


Jet2.com has launched its summer programme for 2023 from six UK bases.

With summer sun in demand, the tour operator has put its programme on sale earlier than ever before.

This gives customers the opportunity to get that well-deserved summer break locked into the diary well in advance – and for Jet2.com to make some cash as the Covid-19 recovery continues.

Trips to Spain, Greece, Turkey, Italy, Cyprus, Croatia and Portugal are all on offer.

The programme includes over 135 weekly flights to Canary Islands, over 150 weekly flights to the Balearic Islands, almost 200 weekly flights to 14 Greek destinations and almost 120 weekly flights to Turkey during peak times.

With flights and holidays to the sunshine going on sale from Belfast International, Birmingham, Bristol, East Midlands, Manchester and London Stansted, the company will be making further summer 2023 announcements over the coming weeks.

This includes further UK bases to go on sale as well as the launch of leisure city destinations.

In recent weeks, Jet2.com have reported the unlocking of enormous pent-up demand from holidaymakers on the back of travel restrictions easing.

The reassurance of an ATOL protected package holiday is also proving to be popular with customers, as is the assurance of booking through a reputable provider that has looked after customers during the pandemic.

Steve Heapy, chief executive of Jet2.com, said: “This is the earliest we have ever put our summer sun programme on sale because we know that customers want something to look forward to more than ever before.

“Following the recent good news about the reopening of international travel, we have seen strong demand from customers wanting to get that all-important dose of sunshine booked in and this summer 2023 programme helps them do exactly that.”





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Reopening Day, Amazon, Summer Travel: Your Tuesday Evening Briefing


(Want to get this newsletter in your inbox? Here’s the sign-up.)

Good evening. Here’s the latest.

1. A “return to life as we know it.”

With 70 percent of adults in New York having received at least one dose of a coronavirus vaccine, Gov. Andrew Cuomo lifted nearly all restrictions on businesses and social gatherings. That includes ending capacity limits, social distance requirements, disinfection protocols and health screenings. Above, the restaurant Juliette in Brooklyn on Tuesday.

It was also “reopening day” in California, as Gov. Gavin Newsom called it. He, too, lifted nearly all of the state’s restrictions, with 72 percent of adults having received at least one dose of the vaccine. As the economy fully reopens, our California restaurant critic said the most exciting place to eat in Los Angeles is Chinatown.

While the U.S. edges toward normalcy, many countries in Asia are still facing months of uncertainty and isolation as their vaccination campaigns just start to gain steam.

2. We learned more about Donald Trump’s efforts to pressure the Justice Department to help overturn the election results.

An hour before William Barr stepped down as attorney general, the former president was pressuring his replacement, Jeffrey Rosen, above, to back his false election fraud claims, emails show. Two weeks later, another email from Trump asked the Justice Department to file a brief to the Supreme Court that argued state officials used the pandemic to weaken election security and pave the way for widespread election fraud.

Separately, the Biden administration is aiming to bolster its ability to combat domestic extremism. A new plan acts as a blueprint on how to more effectively identify extremists in the U.S. after years of heightened focus on foreign terrorists.


4. Amazon did the impossible for customers during the pandemic. But at its only fulfillment center in New York City, the company burned through workers as orders skyrocketed.

An examination by The Times into how the pandemic unfolded at JFK8, as the center is known, found that the crisis exposed the power and peril of Amazon’s employment system. JFK8 helped the company book the equivalent of the previous three years’ profits rolled into one. It also relied on a strained, faltering system for mass-managing people that hired, monitored and fired without much human contact.

Here are five takeaways from the investigation.

Separately, President Biden named Lina Khan, a prominent critic of Big Tech who first attracted notice as a critic of Amazon, as chair of the F.T.C.


5. Hundreds of thousands of post-Covid patients, including Karla Jefferies, above, are experiencing nagging new problems they didn’t have before the disease, a new U.S. study revealed.

6. A heat wave across the Western U.S. could deliver temperatures above 125 degrees and stress electric grids in a region facing the worst drought in two decades.

Arizona, above outside Superior, and Nevada are bracing for the possibility of record highs, while firefighters confronting small blazes in California may be forced to do so in triple-digit heat. The Texas power grid’s operator has urged residents to minimize their electricity usage or risk outages. More than 100 people died in Texas during a February snowstorm that crippled the grid.

We’re also watching two tropical weather events. Tropical Storm Bill became the second named storm of the Atlantic hurricane season overnight, though it is expected to remain away from the coast. And a tropical depression may form by the end of the week, bringing heavy rains to the northern Gulf Coast.


7. Charitable giving in the U.S. rose 5 percent in 2020 to a record $471.4 billion, with civil rights and environmental groups benefiting.

A national conversation over race in the aftermath of the murder of George Floyd by a Minneapolis police officer fueled fund-raising, as did a rising stock market and government stimulus checks.

For the third time in under a year, MacKenzie Scott, above, one of the richest women in the world, announced a multibillion-dollar round of grants — $2.74 billion to 286 organizations. The latest round brings her total to more than $8 billion. When Scott and Jeff Bezos, the founder of Amazon, divorced in 2019, her stock was valued at about $36 billion. Amazon’s soaring stock price has since pushed her net worth to an estimated $60 billion.

8. “Can I lick these people?”

Stephen Colbert, above, returned to a capacity, vaccinated crowd at the Ed Sullivan Theater last night after 15 months of hosting “The Late Show” from home, prompting his guest, Jon Stewart, to ask the question above. “There was something of a surviving-your-own-funeral aspect to the reunion,” writes our TV critic James Poniewozik.

And after four decades, Martin Yan, who used TV to help many North Americans start cooking Chinese food at home, is as cheery as ever but aware of some harsher truths. We spoke to the chef, who is now re-energizing fans as a YouTube host, about the new food media landscape.


In updated recommendations, the C.D.C. said domestic and international travel are low risk for fully vaccinated Americans, but it’s still far from simple. Here’s what you need to know.


10. And finally, the art of the toast.

Massive wedding parties with 10-piece bands and champagne fountains may be giving way to the micro-wedding, but one tradition remains steadfast: the wedding speech.

If you’ve been charged with saying a few words about the couple, we spoke to several experts for tips to help you speak from the heart. Think about your relationship with the couple, consider making it a group effort, cut the clichés and keep it short.

“We’re all so acutely aware that no one has any idea what tomorrow will bring,” one toastmaster said. “The fact that two people want to tackle that tomorrow together feels especially noteworthy.”

Have a moving night.




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Uber, Lyft and car rentals are jammed up. Here's how you can get around this summer instead. – Washington Post



Uber, Lyft and car rentals are jammed up. Here’s how you can get around this summer instead.  Washington Post



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United adding European destinations ahead of summer travel rebound


play

Chicago-based United Airlines is adding five new transatlantic destinations in Spring 2022 as it prepares for a potential bounce back in summer travel between the United States and Europe next year.

The expansion would be the largest transatlantic expansion in the company’s history and includes destinations in Spain, Portugal, Norway, the Spanish Canary Islands and Jordan.

“Given our big expectations for a rebound in travel to Europe for summer, this is the right time to leverage our leading global network in new, exciting ways,” Patrick Quayle, senior vice president of international network and alliances at United, said in a Thursday news release. 

United will be the first North American carrier to fly to the five new destinations.  

  • Bergen, Norway: Starting May 20, United will offer flights three times a week between New York/Newark and Bergen on a Boeing 757-200. 
  • Azores, Portugal: Flights between New York/Newark and Ponta Delgada in the Azores begin May 13 with a new Boeing 737 MAX 8. This will be United’s third Portuguese destination, along with flights to Porto (which return in March) and Lisbon (which are being operated from New York and are set to resume from Washington, D.C. next summer).
  • Palma de Mallorca, Spain: Travelers can fly from New York/Newark to the beach destination in the Balearic Islands in a Boeing 767-300ER starting June 2. United will offer flights three times a week. 
  • Tenerife in the Spanish Canary Islands: United is set to launch a new flight from New York/Newark to the Tenerife on June 9, offering service three times a week via a Boeing 757-200. 
  • Amman, Jordan: Flights from Washington, D.C. to Amman begin May 5 with service three-times-weekly with a Boeing 787-8 Dreamliner. 

Tickets for Bergen, Azores, Palma de Mallorca and Tenerife go on sale Thursday, and Amman tickets should follow soon after. 

The airline is also adding new flights to five European destinations (Berlin, Dublin, Milan, Munich and Rome) “in anticipation of a resurgence in visitors” and relaunching seven routes that had been paused during the pandemic to Bangalore, Frankfurt, Tokyo’s Haneda Airport, Nice and Zurich, all of which are subject to government approval. 

► US travel ban: US to drop travel ban for vaccinated international travelers starting in early November

► ‘You matter to us’: Southwest quietly issuing goodwill travel vouchers

The expansion would follow the launch of a new air travel system in the U.S. in early November that will ease travel restrictions for fully vaccinated foreign nations.

While international flight capacity saw gains this year, it has a ways to go before catching up to pre-pandemic levels. International passenger demand dropped 76% between 2019 and 2020, the sharpest traffic decline in aviation history according to the International Air Transport Association.

Follow USA TODAY reporter Bailey Schulz on Twitter: @bailey_schulz





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7 European Towns That Are Better In The Winter Than The Summer


I don’t know what it is about winter, but not only is it probably my favorite season, but it also suits certain cities so much better than summer. I admit that this view might be subjective, as all the cities listed in this round-up are also great places to visit during other seasons. But, somehow, the best season to visit, in my mind at least, is winter.

Maybe it has something to do with the season I first visited and got to know each place, and looking at the list again, this is true for quite a few of them, but not all. Whatever the reason, these cities just are much more atmospheric in winter: They are either adorned with snow or are dressed up for the festive season, or they are perfect for walking around while wrapped in a warm coat.  

Why don’t you go and have a look to see if you agree?

Winter in Tallinn, Estonia
Alex Stemmers / Shutterstock.com

1. Tallinn, Estonia

Tallinn, the capital of Estonia, is like a time-stood-still fairy tale city. The old center is snuggled within a sturdy medieval city wall, complete with lookout towers with red pointed roofs, and the cobbled lanes are hemmed with ancient buildings, some half-timbered, others painted in pastel shades. The market square sits alongside the old town hall, which dates to 1404, making it the oldest in the Baltic States. There are shops selling the loveliest local arts and crafts, with those little big-nosed gnomes, also called tomte or tonttu, which originate from Norse folklore, making the cutest addition to your mantlepiece back home.

Now add snow, add cafes and restaurants with large open fires and serving either mulled wine, or glöggi, and decadent hot chocolate, add an ice rink set against a row of colorful old houses, and people warmly dressed simply enjoying being out at the market square filled with stalls during the Christmas season, and you have the perfect winter atmosphere.

Pro Tip: Stay at the Hotel Telegraaf in the heart of the old town. A gorgeous old building, modern amenities, huge open fire, and a great restaurant.

A canal in Strasbourg, France
cge2010 / Shutterstock.com

2. Strasbourg, France

Choosing Strasbourg for this list was a no-brainer because it is the Christmas setting personified. I have never seen a city more decorated at Christmas than Strasbourg. Not one shop window or street is without twinkling lights, window decorations, or market stalls. You can barely take it all in, there is so much to see. Don’t get me wrong, I have visited in summer and enjoyed sitting out by the river, and loving the atmosphere of the old town, but if you only get to visit once, make it December, and take in Christmas in Strasbourg. It has to be seen to be believed. And don’t think that it is too much or tacky. Not at all. It is simply perfect.

Pro Tip: While there are big Christmas markets around the cathedral and on the main square, concentrate on the smaller ones in Petite France, the really old part of the old town, where half-timbered houses, covered bridges, and tiny squares add that extra-special ambiance.

A square in Stockholm, Sweden, decorated for Christmas
dimbar76 / Shutterstock.com

3. Stockholm, Sweden

This is definitely a case of first impressions made in the snow and loved ever since. The first time I visited Stockholm I arrived on a ferry from Germany that had just made its way across the frozen Baltic Sea, landing in Stockholm after it had just snowed. The Gamla Stan, the old town, the palaces in and around the city, the parks, the streets, the roofs, everything was covered in a thick layer of perfectly white snow, making the already lovely setting of countless islands, canals, bridges, and harbors even more special. While Stockholm is great in summer, with its people enjoying the light, warmth, and the chance to enjoy the water, I have always preferred it in the winter. Maybe because the city is set up for winter, and knows how to make the most of it, while also offering creature comforts and making every place snuggly and warm?

Pro Tip: If you are lucky enough to be there when fresh snow has fallen, head straight out to Drottningholm Palace which is particularly picturesque in the snow.

A harbor in Helsinki, Finland
canadastock / Shutterstock.com

 4. Helsinki, Finland

Another northern winter winner delight is Helsinki, and do you know why? Because I fell in love with one particular café/restaurant called Kappeli, which is decked out in countless twinkling lights that light up the entire Esplanade in winter’s dark nights. Walking around the old harbor, visiting the covered market, the arts and crafts huts alongside the harbor, and then turning into the wide Esplanade, the historic Kappeli restaurant — one side lovely café, another side very nice restaurant — stands there like a special Christmas decoration, and it does serve rather good food, too.

And the square in front of the Helsinki Cathedral, just off the Esplanade steps from Kappeli, is another lovely sight, with a huge Christmas tree in front of the white cathedral.

Pro Tip: Finland is known as the land with 5.3 million people and 3.3 million saunas, and while the Finns love them year round, they are even better in winter. Book yourself in and get warm.

Winter at the Eiffel Tower in Paris, France
Ekaterina Pokrovsky / Shutterstock.com

5. Paris, France

I have always maintained that winter was my favorite season in Paris, much to the horror of Parisians, who easily get a chill. But not only is Paris more void of people in winter but also, it is possible to walk along the beautiful architecture without the leaves of the trees being in the way of appreciating the scene. Not that I do not like the trees in Paris, it is lovely for the city to be so green, but when you walk along looking up, you often miss the details of the buildings for trees.

And should you get snow that stays on the ground, then head straight for the Eiffel Tower. That might sound like unnecessary advice but trust me. Once it snows properly, all the metros and buses go on reduced service, and no one heads out. I had the entire Champ de Mars to myself, with four other people, managing to take wonderful pictures of a snowy Eiffel Tower without people. Just imagine.  

Pro Tip: Every winter there are lots of ice rinks popping up in Paris, and whether you join in or not, try and go to the Grand Palais. The setting is wonderful, and it serves warm drinks as well as chilled champagne, and you can just watch others fall over.

A view from Calton Hill in Edinburgh, Scotland
ABO PHOTOGRAPHY / Shutterstock.com

6. Edinburgh, Scotland

The capital of Scotland is truly lovely in all seasons, and even if it rains, it still has a certain charm. But Edinburgh pulls out all the stops not just for Christmas, with the steep lanes up to the castle looking particularly lovely, but especially over the New Year. This is the time to come and watch how the Scots party and celebrate Hogmanay. Come prepared and get a torch ready for the torchlight procession down the Royal Mile, and learn the words to “Auld Lang Syne,” which everybody bursts into at midnight.  

Pro Tip: On January 2, when the party is over and the hangover has abated, head to the Botanical Gardens for the last visiting time slots for the light trail. The lights are so pretty.

Decorations on a canal in Hamburg, Germany
Scirocco340 / Shutterstock.com

7. Hamburg, Germany

Hamburg is my hometown and I love all seasons there, in summer the canals and lakes are full of boats and paddlers, and the parks full of picnickers, and it is lovely to have a break from the famous schmuddelwetter, meaning the dirty weather, i.e., the rain that dominates spring and fall. In winter, there is usually another break from the rain, when it turns to snow. And if luck has it, it gets cold enough for the two lakes that dominate the city center to freeze over. When that happens, all of Hamburg gets on the ice — walking, skating, setting up sausage and mulled wine stands, and people basically picnicking on the ice.

Then there are the Christmas concerts, best enjoyed in the modern Elbphilharmonie with its great views, or the truly iconic Hamburg setting of the St. Michaelis Church, the “Michel” as locals call it.

Add to that the great Christmas markets, especially the one in front of the historic town hall, and you will get the idea why this city is just perfect in wintertime.

Pro Tip: Head to Konditorei Lindtner in the Eppendorf neighborhood. This is a traditional old café that embodies the Germans’ famous love of cake. Try the Lübecker Marzipantorte, a cream cake with a layer of marzipan on top. Very decadent, but in winter you burn more calories, so this doesn’t count.

Wintertime in Europe also means Christmas markets:



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Five Things to Know if You’re Road-Tripping This Summer


Rising vaccination rates and pent-up demand are expected to speed up travel’s rebound this summer. Despite Europe’s reopening, lingering skittishness about flying, increasing worries about coronavirus variants and testing requirements for overseas travel practically guarantee that the majority of summer vacations by Americans, like last year, will be domestic, and many taken by car.

In addition to tips from the Before Times — get your car serviced, load up on snacks and be open to the possibility of adventure — here are five things to keep in mind if you’re planning a road trip this year.

Stay-at-home orders, virtual schooling and shuttered workplaces kept streets from coast to coast quiet last year. Driving fell by 13.2 percent from 2019 — to its lowest level in two decades — according to numbers released in February by the Federal Highway Administration.

Although many travelers last summer enjoyed the retro appeal of wide-open roads relatively free of crowds, this summer is likely to have distinctly 21st-century levels of traffic. Data from the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, which oversees public transportation in the New York City metropolitan area, shows that traffic at the area’s bridges and tunnels has generally been rising over the last few weeks, with a handful of calendar dates even exceeding their prepandemic equivalents.

In a May estimate, AAA, the automobile owners group, put the number of Memorial Day road-trippers around 34 million, an increase of 52 percent compared to 2020 (though still down by 9 percent compared to 2019). According to the report, nine of 10 travelers planned to drive to their holiday destinations.

Although air traveler numbers are ticking up as well, according to Transportation Security Administration checkpoint numbers, a new survey of more than 1,000 respondents by the tire company Bridgestone Americas shows that more than half of Americans plan to vacation only by car this summer, and that nearly 80 percent feel safer in a car than they do on a plane. From May 1 to mid-June, the social media analytics company Sprout Social tracked more than four times the mentions of road trips compared to flights on Twitter.

By now, most states have lifted whatever relics remained of the quarantine and testing requirements that were put in place last year. Some, including Alabama, Indiana and Maryland, have no restrictions at all; others, including Oregon and Rhode Island, are still requiring or recommending various levels of quarantine and testing for unvaccinated visitors while exempting those who are at least two weeks beyond their second shot.

Although road-trippers can more freely cross state lines this summer than last, pandemic laws — and culture — still varies from place to place. Several online tools can help clarify destination-specific rules about masks, distancing, capacity restrictions and more, including the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Travel Planner and AAA’s Covid-19 Travel Restrictions map.

On Kayak, the travel comparison website, May searches for summer car rentals were up 195 percent over May 2019, with outdoorsy cities like Denver and Orlando among the most-searched-for destinations.

Rental cars are scarce: A recent Enterprise.com search for a rental car for the Fourth of July weekend — with a pickup on July 1 and drop-off on July 5 at the Miami International Airport — showed no availability.

Spokeswomen from Enterprise Holdings and Hertz, in similarly written emailed statements, both acknowledged the high demand and limited availability that have earned the pandemic-era nationwide rental car shortage its nickname: “carpocalypse.”

Kayak search data shows that rental cars are also getting more expensive; the average price in May was up 19 percent from April, and up 102 percent over May 2019.

“Domestic demand for car rentals has significantly increased as more travelers become vaccinated and are comfortable planning their next vacations,” said Steve Sintra, Kayak’s vice president and general manager of North America. “If you want to save money, plan to pick up your car on Tuesday, when the average price is about 9 percent cheaper compared to Sunday.”

Mr. Sintra also recommended booking early: “Two months ahead is the ideal time frame to rent a car,” he said. “It may take more planning, but it could save you some money.”

Be flexible with pick-up location — Enterprise has an online feature that redirects users to nearby options when their first choice isn’t available — and book at neighborhood locations, rather than busy airports.

Alternatives to the traditional car-rental model are another way to go. Kyte, a company that delivers professionally maintained and sanitized rental cars to customers’ doors, now has a foothold in several major domestic cities, including New York, Boston and San Francisco. The company launched in Chicago earlier this month and will roll out to Miami, Philadelphia and Seattle in the months to come.

Also this month, the car-sharing company Turo expanded its Commercial Host program, which allows independent licensed and insured rental car companies to be listed on the platform, to New York, making inroads — and expanding consumer options — in a major East Coast market.

Although major museums around the country, including the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City and the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, are open, most have capacity limits and are requiring timed tickets. Meanwhile, some classic road-trip sites, including Arizona’s Antelope Canyon — an icon of Instagram tourism before the pandemic — are closed indefinitely.

Covid-safety measures in National Park Service destinations vary by park and will likely continue to change in the coming weeks. Certain shuttle bus routes at the Grand Canyon are not operational, for example; some restaurants at the site are closed and others require advance reservations. At Big Bend National Park, in Texas, would-be campers cannot simply show up: Campground reservations are required. Additionally, some National Park lodges are already sold out for the summer and into fall, according to Xanterra Travel Collection, which operates lodges at Yellowstone, Zion and several others.

The key to navigating these roadblocks? Check the individual websites for your destination — and its attractions and restaurants — for the latest health protocols and information about openings and closures, and make reservations as far as possible in advance. And because timed entry tickets are often linked to QR codes — and because lunchtime sustenance often lives and dies by Yelp — invest in a USB car charger.

Construction wrapped up on the Bourne Bridge, the gateway to Cape Cod, just in the nick of time for Memorial Day weekend traffic, and after a year when many infrastructure projects were stalled, this summer is certain to bring roadwork that jams up the nation’s highways and byways.

“It was very common for states to put all sorts of projects on hold last summer because of budget uncertainty, not to mention safety precautions,” said Richard Auxier, a senior policy associate at the Urban-Brookings Tax Policy Center. This year, by contrast, Mr. Auxier said, the $1.9 trillion stimulus bill that President Biden signed into law in mid-March, the American Rescue Plan, has allocated funds to state and local governments for transportation and infrastructure investments.

“Now, not only is the economy opening back up, but they have this infusion of federal dollars that will either get them back to where they were before the pandemic or actually let them fund projects they might not have done,” Mr. Auxier said of state transportation departments.

The Federal Highway Administration does not keep a national log of construction projects, and aside from researching planned work on transportation department websites and listening to local news, consumer-facing apps — like Waze and Google Maps, which show real-time traffic and construction — is the best way to keep abreast of what to expect. Long drives and traffic jams also call for ample distractions, so be sure to download the newest audiobooks and podcasts.

Sarah Firshein is a Brooklyn-based writer. She is also our Tripped Up columnist. If you need advice about a best-laid travel plan that went awry, send an email to [email protected].


THE WORLD IS REOPENING. LET’S GO, SAFELY. Follow New York Times Travel on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook. And sign up for our Travel Dispatch newsletter: Each week you’ll receive tips on traveling smarter, stories on hot destinations and access to photos from all over the world.





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Sustainability Tip: Plan your summer sustainable trip


As popular tourist destinations around the country scramble to certify their holiday hubs as responsible, impactful, intentional and overall sustainable, the greater Vail destination enters a new normal with ease.

Having been pronounced the first Certified Sustainable Destination in the nation in 2017, the greater Vail destination has since been successfully re-certified, awarded the title as a Top 100 Sustainable Destination by Green Destinations every year since (2021 is still TBD), and has continued to not only be the leader of American Sustainable Destinations, but also the professor of Sustainable Destination Certification with Mountain IDEAL, guiding neighboring Breckenridge to equivalent stardom as the third Certified Sustainable Destination in the U.S.

As one of the architects of the Mountain IDEAL Standard, Melissa Kirr and other Sustainability Programs staff at Walking Mountains Science Center have even bigger plans for expanding sustainability education from local to global, envisioning a global reach to tourist destinations and gateway communities worldwide. Lucky for them, their mission specific to sustainable destinations has become more attainable as a result of a rather conspicuous, pervasive and unwelcome matter that has consumed us over the last 16 months.



While we can all agree the Coronavirus pandemic has imposed upon us a new way of life, or new normal, perhaps not all of what is now “new” is necessarily “bad” or negative. Though the journey to get here was undeniably difficult, in some ways society can now enjoy the fruits of our labor: We can benefit from the ways we’ve been forced to change. For example, we’ve learned that there are many advantages both for employers and employees to work from home two days a week – from improved mental health, to increased engagement and productivity, as well as reduced commuter emissions, and better efficiency.

The tourism industry has also forcibly evolved. Increased consideration for health and well-being during the pandemic was a given no matter your location, but significant attention and support was necessary for tourist economies that suffered eminently due to travel restrictions and limitations.



Interestingly enough, tourism-based economies also began to shift in consideration for environmental systems as well. Not only were consumers more interested in visiting green hotels than non-green hotels during the early stages of the outbreak, hotels were also more willing to increase sustainability efforts and green business practices after the pandemic than they were prior.

This has led to an increased effort from tourism destinations to attain Certification as a recognized Sustainable Destination worldwide. Increased interest in the Mountain IDEAL Standard has come from the West Coast, East Coast, Mountain West, Europe, South America and Central America. Destinations include Lake Tahoe, California; Big Sky, Montana; Spitzingsee, Germany; and Santiago, Chile to name a few.

Needless to say, residents and visitors to the renowned greater Vail destination have a lot to be proud of, and even more to protect. As we move into summer and begin to see increased visitation, these efforts to maintain our tourist economy should not go unnoticed, forgotten or erased. Instead, help spread the message, encourage responsible tourism, and contribute to your community by supporting this priority. It’s the least we can do as the current tenants of this little piece of the Rocky Mountain Range.

Sustainability Tip #1. Utilize Vail’s Sustainable Destination Certification for all the marketing advantages it offers!

Sustainability Tip #2. Whether you’re a homeowner, business owner or employee, explore how you can make a difference for our Sustainable Destination at walkingmoutains.org/sustainability.

Sustainability Tip #3. Encourage friends, family and other visitors or guests to be responsible consumers of all the Eagle Valley has to offer both indoors and outdoors.

 



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