AAA gives tips to travelers this holiday season in light new COVID variant, travel restrictions


OhioHealth says we have the tools to stay safe, when it comes to holiday travel. AAA says there are a few things travelers can do.



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Tourists packed Moab last week as pandemic travelers filled the West


Moab on a mid-fall weeknight was full. All the motels, RV parks and tents sites had “no vacancy” notices. Every food provider from Denny’s to the organic, locally-sourced artisan places had limited hours and limited menus due to lack of staff or food shortages.

On the southernmost tip of Utah, things got worse. There was no avocado toast left at the Kanab Creek Bakery. At the news, vegans and foodies looked visibly wan. The staff feigned patience. I settled for coffee that oddly came from being roasted at the extreme north end of the state, in Logan, Utah.

This felt like what travel has become these days — lots of tourists, strained services, and everywhere, Help Wanted signs. And weekdays didn’t seem mainly for retired people. We got to Chaco Canyon National Park on a Tuesday afternoon, and the campground there was sold out.

Fall used to be shoulder or at least elbow season; kids were back in school, people commuting to work, some campgrounds closed, and some attractions boarded up. In the few all-season campgrounds, you had your pick of sites. The pandemic problematic abnormal has changed that, and now there are rearrangements of everything everywhere.

Tanja, who spells it that way, let us in the Circleville, Utah, RV Park and Kountry Store for free. “It’s my campground and I can do what I want,” she said before making her rounds on her ATV.

The Cottonwood RV Park in Bluff, Utah, was not free and ready to close for the season. It’s near the Navaho Nation and many people were wearing masks. Nancy, the manager, tells us from a safe distance that she personally knew 40 people who died of COVID-19 in the last two years. She also gave us directions to the semi-secret petroglyph panels in Bears Ears National Monument; the same panels that the Friends of Cedar Mesa group would not mention.



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U.S. ends travel ban on foreign travelers who show proof of vaccination


In January, President Donald Trump announced a plan to end the travel ban, saying it was unnecessary because of his administration’s policy that required international travelers to provide proof of a negative test before boarding U.S.-bound flights. But within days of taking office, the Biden administration reinstated the ban and added South Africa, and later India, to the list, citing the need to control the spread of coronavirus variants.



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Travelers brace as holiday travel rush returns to Reagan National


Sunday is expected to be one of the busiest travel days since the COVID-19 pandemic began, and travelers are seeing the rush at D.C.’s Reagan National Airport.

Sunday is expected to be one of the busiest travel days since the pandemic began and travelers are seeing the rush at Reagan National Airport. (WTOP/Luke Lukert)

Sunday is expected to be one of the busiest travel days since the COVID-19 pandemic began, and travelers are seeing the rush at D.C.’s Reagan National Airport.

Not everyone flying is traveling for the holiday. Kristen flew to D.C. from Atlanta for business. Her advice after waiting in “ridiculous” lines at security checkpoints in Atlanta: “Get to the airport 15 hours early.”

“Thankfully, I had priority, so didn’t take me as long as I thought it was going to take — it was about 15 (or) 20 minutes. If I’d have had to have waited in the regular line with everybody else, I would have missed my flight,” Kristen said.



Travelers by air or road should plan for delays as the Transportation Security Administration expects hundreds of thousands to millions more will venture out this holiday season over last year. The AAA is predicting most road traffic to be in the afternoon.

Like other college students on Thanksgiving break, Matthew Rodriguez waited until Sunday to travel so he could maximize time spent at home with family.

“Show up early, those lines — they take forever,” Rodriguez, who is traveling back to college in Florida, told WTOP’s Luke Lukert. “I know I’ve been in those lines as long as one or two hours before.”

The WTOP Traffic Center reports that people might want to leave a little early as some of the areas where travelers are dropped off at the airports are crowded.

Air travel is up this year: The AAA projects more than 76,000 residents will fly, which is an 80% jump from 2020. But Thanksgiving air travel is still down 25% pre-pandemic levels in 2019.

WTOP’s Luke Lukert reported from Reagan Airport in Washington, D.C.

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Air travelers preparing for long lines during one of the busiest travel days of the year



FORT MYERS

Flights and airports across the country are expected to be packed on Sunday, one of the busiest traveling days of the year as people rush to get home after the Thanksgiving holiday.

RSW airport wasn’t packed early on Sunday. The lines were short and parking was abundant.

WINK News spoke with a parent who was dropping her child off at the airport to return back to school. They got to the airport two hours before her flight expecting a long line, but when it was empty, they decided to spend some extra time together before they parted ways.

“We got here at 5 expecting the line to be long, and then it was really short and we were like OK we woke up early for nothing,” said Ansley Tedford.

Audra Tedford said, “I was expecting to see full lines at security and then we woke up and it was empty I couldn’t believe it.”

While RSW wasn’t very busy early on Sunday morning, the crowds and lines are expected to grow as the day goes on.

Extra security lines have been set up for overflow. RSW is urging anyone flying out of the airport arrive at least two hours early in anticipation of crowds.



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U.S. travel ban lifts Nov. 8; airlines brace for ‘onslaught’ of travelers


The United States will accept people who have been vaccinated with the shots that have been authorized within its borders — vaccines by Moderna, Pfizer-BioNTech and Johnson & Johnson — as well as vaccines approved for emergency use by the World Health Organization, such as those developed by AstraZeneca with Oxford University, as well as by China’s Sinovac. It will also allow people who have received combinations of such shots. However, Russia’s Sputnik V vaccine won’t be included, as it has yet to be approved by the WHO, which suspended its review of the vaccine in September over concerns about production practices but resumed the process in October.



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‘I even miss the airline delays:’ Meet the business travelers who can’t wait to get back on the road – Washington Post



‘I even miss the airline delays:’ Meet the business travelers who can’t wait to get back on the road  Washington Post



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Most popular U.S. tourist destinations for European travelers


When the U.S. announced plans to lift an 18-month-long travel ban in September, Europeans wasted no time making plans — particularly the Brits.

In the 24 hours that followed the Sept. 20 announcement, flights from London to New York City were searched 1.4 million times, according to the global travel technology company Travelport, making it the most popular U.S.-bound flight search of the day.

The route, however, didn’t achieve the most bookings that day.

Europeans booked the most seats on another route — London to Orlando — according to Travelport, which analyzes bookings made through travel agents and websites like Priceline and Booking.com.

This “underscores the return of leisure travel demand,” said Katie Cline, a senior director at Travelport.

A business travel rebound

The Sept. 20 announcement, which indicated early pandemic-era travel bans would be replaced by vaccination and Covid-testing protocols for international travelers, specified a start month — “early November” — but not an effective date.

That was enough to send leisure travelers straight to their computers, many of whom booked travel well into the future. Most of the early bookings to Orlando, Florida — home to Walt Disney World and Universal Orlando Resort — were for trips in the summer of 2022, said Cline.   

In the 24 hours that followed the Sept. 20 travel announcement, searches for flights from London to New York City averaged nearly 1,000 per minute.

Smithlandia Media | Moment | Getty Images

On Oct. 15, the Biden Administration announced the new rules would start on Nov. 8. That unleashed a torrent of business traveler bookings for trips before the year-end.    

“After the second announcement, corporate travel from London to New York has almost doubled,” said Cline.  

Hotel booking data from travel marketing company Adara supports this trend.

Adara | Booking period Sept. 1 to Nov. 8 | Travel period Nov. 8 to Jan. 9

European leisure and business travelers booked U.S. hotels at similar rates until mid-October. Thereafter business bookings soared.

Where Europeans are going

The popularity of the Orlando route was soon eclipsed, said Cline, by a more expected transatlantic flightpath: London to New York.

According to Adara, New York City is the top destination for hotel bookings too.

Adara | Hotel booking: Sept. 1 to Nov. 8 | Travel: Nov. 8 through Jan. 9 for leisure ; Nov. 8 to Dec. 18 for business

European travelers also favored cities and “sun-centric locations,” the company said.

Most cities are still attracting less interest from Europeans than in 2019. However, hotel bookings in Phoenix are up 84% among business travelers, while Honolulu is up 139% among leisure travelers, according to Adara. Miami has also returned to its pre-pandemic stride.

Phoenix appeals to businesses in that it has decent air service, great golfing, sun and outdoor activities.

Carolyn Corda

Adara, CCO and CMO

The ‘need to travel now’

Since September, the top “origin markets” for travel from Europe to the U.S. are the U.K., Netherlands, France and Germany, according to Adara.

But Britons are leading the charge, according to Travelport. Its data showed that in the 24 hours after the Sept. 20 travel announcement, U.S.-bound flights from the U.K. were searched more than U.S.-bound flights from all other European countries combined.

Following the Oct. 15 announcement, flights from the U.K. to the U.S. for Thanksgiving weekend increased by 2,200%. Cline said she believes that’s due to families reuniting for the holidays, as well as Britons who enjoy Black Friday shopping in the United States.

“Additionally, this underscores the greater trend we’re seeing for ‘the need to travel now,'” she said. “November was the most popular month for travel to the U.S. from Europe, and November 8th — the day of reopening — was the most popular departure date.”

Recovery is underway

The uptick in international travel is positive news for the beleaguered travel industry, said Cline, who said it’s “the first time we’ve [had] such a significant growth to transatlantic corporate travel since the pandemic began.”

The industry is still far from a full recovery, however. Aggregate demand for hotel bookings by travelers from Europe, the Middle East and Africa in the U.S. is down 43% from 2019, according to Adara.

British business travelers made half the number of U.S. hotel bookings for 2021 year-end travel as they did in 2019, according to Adara.

Adara | Booking Sept. 1 to Nov. 2 | Travel Nov. 8 to Dec. 18

Adara

Hotel bookings by German (-65%) and Swiss (-56%) business travelers are noticeably down too, while bookings by Israelis (-21%) are closer to pre-pandemic levels.

Dutch business travelers, however, don’t appear to be sitting on the sidelines. Adara’s data shows U.S. hotels booked from the Netherlands are up 44% this year as compared to 2019.  

Still, both the speed and duration of the booking surge along with the interest in dense, urban areas are all optimistic signs of a recovery, according to a report issued by Adara in October.

“We expect these trends to continue to gain momentum,” it said.

Disclosure: Comcast is the parent company of NBCUniversal, which owns Universal Orlando Resort, and CNBC.



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