Travelers have mixed emotions about Memorial Day travel: What to expect

Dick Penry of Dayton didn’t travel from his home last Memorial Day weekend because of the pandemic, but he expects to be one of expected 1.4 million Ohioans to take a trip this holiday week.

“I didn’t go out last year, but me and my two brothers will travel to Marion to put flowers on our parents’ graves this weekend,” Penry said.

Some travelers have a renewed sense of optimism when it comes to this Memorial Day and look forward to spending more and staying longer on trips as a means to make up for the vacation time the pandemic took away from them, according to AAA. However, 27% of Ohioans said they still will not travel for the holiday, according to a AAA poll.

Penry said having two vaccines has made him feel better about traveling.

“I expect to also take a fishing trip to Michigan in June,” he said.

AAA expects 1.4 million Ohioans to travel over Memorial Day this year representing a return of 86% of those who traveled before the pandemic in 2019, when a record number of Ohioans traveled for the holiday weekend.

The AAA poll also showed that 33% of those looking to travel are interested in a quick retreat.

“Some people are planning those quick getaways and other people are looking to expand their normal travel patterns so we’re seeing longer vacations being booked by some people,” AAA Director of Leisure Travel Micki Dudas said.

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The trend is referred to as revenge travel - vacationers extend beyond their typical trip time or budget to make up for lost time. AAA experts expect this to continue throughout most of the summer including Memorial Day weekend.

Dudas said most travelers feel safer traveling by car but should be aware of hike in gas prices.

“We do know there is a correlation between summer fuels and the refineries, but really the shortages that we have heard is really driven by the lack of qualified fleet drivers to deliver gasoline in certain segments of the state,” she said.

Gas prices tend to increase around most major holidays, but with the current shortage in fuel tank drivers, road trippers can expect higher prices at the pump with a state average of $2.89 per gallon for regular fuel, according to GasBuddy, which tracks national gas prices. That price is over $1 more than last year.

Last Memorial Day, gas prices sank to a record setting $1.87 per gallon national average during the pandemic. It had been 17 years since the national gas price average was under $2 per gallon leading into the holiday.

The jump in gas prices won’t stop travelers from taking vacations, Dudas said.

Vaccine distribution is well underway and has restored traveler’s confidence, however, some still have plans to refrain from traveling this summer.

“There are still people that are concerned, and rightfully so about COVID-19. We have seen a correlation of an increase in bookings at AAA based on the roll out of the vaccine,” Dudas aid.

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Earlier this month, Gov. Mike DeWine announced fully vaccinated people can resume activities, including domestic travel at low risk to themselves with proper precautions. About 19% of surveyed Ohioans said that being fully vaccinated was the driving force behind their travel decision, however, 23% of Ohioans said they still have pandemic related travel concerns.

A survey conducted by an Erie, Pa., insurance company revealed those wanting to take road trips this summer have other fears in addition to contracting COVID-19.

“We know a lot of drivers are anxious to travel again as pandemic restrictions begin to lift, so we commissioned this survey to get a glimpse into drivers’ mindsets as they venture back out,” said Jon Bloom, vice president with Erie Insurance in a statement. “Our survey uncovered some concerning behaviors and showed that we need to remain vigilant and keep reminding people that driving is something that requires their full attention. We want everyone to enjoy their road trips and make it home safely.”

With the increase in road travel in Ohio, the Ohio Department of Transportation is working to reduce the size of work zones and remove as many lane closures as possible for the upcoming holiday weekend, but still urge motorists to be mindful when traveling through work zones.

The Ohio State Highway Patrol has its focus on safety belt usage and impaired drivers. Last year, the state reported 20 people were killed in crashes over the holiday weekend, half of whom weren’t wearing a seat belt.

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