The good news for Americans looking to get away over the Memorial Day weekend is that there is more freedom to travel than there was a year ago.
The bad news? It’ll likely come with some headaches.
What You Need To Know
- More Americans will travel over the Memorial Day holiday weekend than they did last year, but their trips will likely come with some headaches
- Gas prices are expected to hit a seven-year high for a Memorial Day weekend, AAA said
- Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas on Friday morning warned people flying over the holiday weekend to expect long lines at airports
- And there's a rental car shortage after companies sold off many of their vehicles last year and a global semiconductor shortage that is holding up the production of new cars
Pent-up demand has sent gas prices soaring while air travel is returning to pre-pandemic levels. Meanwhile, there is a rental car shortage.
Gas prices are expected to hit a seven-year high for a Memorial Day weekend, AAA said. As of Friday, the national average was $3.04 per gallon. Last year at this time, when demand was low as Americans largely stayed home, it was $1.97.
Despite the high fuel prices, AAA expects 34 million Americans to travel by car over the holiday weekend, noting that economies have reopened and most mask recommendations have been dropped for those fully vaccinated for COVID-19.
Some gas stations in the Southeast are still feeling the aftereffects of the Colonial Pipeline cyberattack in the form of supply delays, the auto group said.
“Drivers should understand markets aren’t expected to be ‘fuel-less,’” said Fran Mayko, a AAA spokeswoman. “But road trippers may come across some gas stations with low supplies in popular destinations such as beaches, mountains and national parks.”
In a statement released Friday afternoon, White House press secretary Jen Psaki said that President Joe Biden "knows that gas prices are a pain point for Americans—especially the middle-class families he’s put at the center of his economic agenda" and reiterated that Biden is "opposed any proposals to raise the gas tax."
"As Americans are hitting the road, they are paying less in real terms for gas than they have on average over the last 15 years — and they’re paying about the same as they did in May 2018 and May 2019," she wrote. "The Administration’s success in beating the pandemic and getting our economy back on track has led to increased demand for gas as the country re-opens. But, while prices have increased from the lows last year — as demand drastically dipped — prices at just about $3 per gallon are still well in-line with what they’ve been in recent decades."
Psaki concluded by saying that the White House will continue to monitor gas prices over Memorial Day Weekend, and that they "are glad that Americans can get on the road again."
Meanwhile, jet setters are returning to airports in large numbers.
Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas on Friday morning warned people flying over the holiday weekend to expect long lines at airports.
“People will see lines because there’s going to be a tremendous amount of people traveling this weekend,” Mayorkas said during an appearance on ABC’s “Good Morning America.” “Patience is required.”
Mayorkas said the Transportation Security Administration has been ramped up hiring in an anticipation of increased travel this weekend and over the summer.
On Sunday, the TSA screened 1.86 million people at U.S. airports, the most since March 8, 2020. That number was nearly matched Wednesday, a glimpse of things to come over the holiday weekend.
But when air travelers reach their destinations, they might not be able to find a rental car to drive.
When demand plummeted last year during the height of the pandemic, rental car companies sold off many of their vehicles. Now as customers are returning, the companies are struggling to replenish their fleets amid a global semiconductor shortage that is holding up the production of new cars.
If a rental car is available, customers can expect to pay more than they’re used to.
Jonathan Weinberg, founder and CEO of AutoSlash.com, recently told Spectrum News 13 in Florida that he was “seeing prices of over $100 a day, in some cases, prices approaching $500 a day” for vehicles in in the Orlando and Tampa areas.
“It’s pretty crazy,” Weinberg said.
“We’ve even heard of people renting U-Hauls in some cases, so you really need to think outside the box a little bit,” he added.