More than half of Americans are set to take a trip in the next three months, according to the U.S. Travel Association.
With more people getting the COVID-19 vaccine, that summer getaway is starting to look more attainable and appealing.
Travel experts say now is the time to start planning as popular destinations book up for “vaxications” following a year of pandemic-induced lockdowns.
In fact, the Transportation Security Administration said it's hiring more than 6,000 security officers nationwide before the summer to prepare for the influx.
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"I think there's going to be some really high demand in the U.S. for the next two months. There’s tons of pent-up demand. I think people will pay almost anything at this point to get out of what I like to call ‘Zoomville,’” said Rick Seaney, a Dallas-based travel expert and CEO of travel analytics firm 3Victors and FareCompare.com.
He said domestic destinations are big this summer. That means places like Florida, the Gulf Coast and parts of Texas will be slammed with more tourists.
California is a hot spot, too, with Disneyland opening this month for the first in more than a year.
“We're seeing a ton of people funneled into a very small number of destinations and the airlines are trying to react to that," Seaney said. "As they recover, they’re going to be adding more flights. You’re going to see flights where you normally wouldn’t see them, like more flights from smaller to midsize cities directly into those destinations, as opposed to having a connect over through major hubs like Dallas or Chicago."
Private rental homes are also in high demand.
International travel will still be really hard to plan for, though, Seaney says.
Some Caribbean destinations and Mexico are making it easier with all-inclusive resorts that provide a “bubble” atmosphere and COVID-19 testing.
However, planning to travel to the rest of the world can be tricky. Many countries that are open to tourists are requiring people to show proof of travel insurance and a negative COVID-19 test taken within 72 hours or less from the departure time.
COVID-19 restrictions can also change at a moment's notice, with more surges being reported in different parts of the world and new lockdowns going into place.
"Now, it’s really about what are the rules? They’re pretty arbitrary when countries decide to change them," Seaney said. "It’s not like they are giving you 30 days notice that they're about to change the rules. It’s pretty much like, we’re changing it right now, deal with it."
Several countries are requiring several days of quarantine, which can defeat the purpose of a vacation. Others are barring U.S. travelers from even entering.
You also need a negative COVID-19 test in order to gain entry back into the U.S. upon return. In some places, tests can be hard to find.
Seaney said while it’s important to get your vaccine and have that card handy, it might not help you bypass the rules. A much-anticipated travel trend known as "vaccine passports" is still in the early phases and countries are still staying stringent on protocols to get in.
"Trip planning just in general, especially when you get into international travel for example, is really complicated. Adding on all these different layers of state and political boundary issues and international boundaries, it makes the complications on steroids. You have to spend hours actually dotting your I's and crossing your T's, basically planning out your entire trip knowing what all the rules are. And even playing the 'what if' game,” Seaney said.
So, if you feel comfortable to travel this summer, plan now.
Be flexible. And read the ticket rules because they are changing.
As more people funnel into a small number of destinations, prepare to pay more than you thought. Airfare prices are increasing to make up for losses as business travel continues to be non-existent.
Doctors stress that a road trip is still a better bet than air travel at this point in the pandemic in terms of personal safety and responsibility. People who do plan to fly should consider double masking, keeping a thermometer with them, as well as a routine regimen of supplements, including Vitamin D, to help boost their immune system.
If you do fly, consider double masking and make sure you're fully vaccinated before you go.
But if you plan on traveling by car this summer, keep in mind that rentals may be hard to find. They’ve also become more expensive.
The pandemic devastated the travel industry and car rental companies got rid of cars in their fleets. Rental giant Hertz, which also owns the Dollar and Thrifty brands, was forced to file for bankruptcy reorganization in may and quickly started selling thousands of used cars in its fleet.
Book early -- as soon as you book your plane ticket and hotel, book your rental car. Look for discounts and consider an off-airport location.