VIRGINIA — Many Virginia and DC residents are once again preparing to mark the unofficial end of summer by hitting the road this Labor Day weekend.
After more than a year in the doldrums of the coronavirus pandemic, travel this summer rebounded with a vengeance as COVID-19 cases hit lows not seen in months.
Over the July 4 holiday weekend, more than 10 million people passed through U.S. airport security checkpoints. In all, more than 47 million people were expected to travel over that holiday, according to AAA estimates.
However, things may look different this Labor Day.
As the highly contagious delta variant sweeps across the United States, COVID-19 cases are up again, averaging close to 140,000 new cases per day. While some travelers are wondering whether to take that final summer trip, many are hitting the road anyway.
“Whether and how to travel is a very personal decision,” Paula Twidale, senior vice president of AAA Travel, said in a news release. “By and large, people who were planning to travel are still taking their trips, while being mindful to take precautions to protect themselves and others.”
If you’re planning to get out of town this Labor Day weekend, here are a few tips on how to prepare for the trip as well as ideas to keep you and your family safe, according to AAA.
As for the amount of traffic this year, the Virginia Department of Transportation is projecting traffic congestion will be extremely heavy on interstates and freeways in Northern Virginia “between noon and 6 p.m. on Friday, Sept. 3 and Monday, Sept. 6.”
AAA Mid-Atlantic previously surveyed D.C. area residents about their Labor Day travel intentions and interest. In 2015, AAA forecast about 850,700 people in the Washington metro area would celebrate the holiday with a final trip before summer comes to a close, with 87 percent going by car.
“What has happened since then? The biggest factor is the ongoing coronavirus pandemic and the fact that many schools in Virginia are now opening before Labor Day,” AAA said.
The Virginia State Police is conducting its 20th annual Checkpoint Strikeforce DUI enforcement and public education campaign through Labor Day weekend. During last year’s Labor Day weekend, Virginia State troopers arrested 55 drunk drivers, averaging a DUI arrest every 104 minutes.
The Virginia State Police also will work through Labor Day as part of Operation CARE, or Crash Awareness Reduction Effort. Operation CARE is a nationwide, state-sponsored traffic safety program that aims to reduce traffic crashes, fatalities and injuries caused by impaired driving, speeding and failing to use occupant restraints.
Mask Guidance For Travelers
Masks should be at the top of your packing list, according to AAA.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recently updated its guidance on mask-wearing, advising all people over age 2 to wear masks indoors in areas with high COVID-19 transmission, regardless of vaccination status.
You can also count on having to wear a mask on planes, buses, trains and other forms of public transportation. Masks are also required in airports and stations.
It’s also a good rule of thumb to check local and state mask requirements and guidance. You can do this using AAA’s COVID-19 Travel Restrictions Map. You can also use TripTik.AAA.com to plan your road trip and help determine which rest stops, gas stations, restaurants and hotels are open along your route.
Many countries have reopened their borders to vaccinated Americans. Still, international travel requires a bit of coordination.
If you are fully vaccinated, you should follow the CDC’s recommendations and get tested for the COVID-19 virus within three to five days of traveling internationally. Unless your destination country requires it, you do not need to get tested before leaving the United States. You also do not need to self-quarantine after arriving in the United States.
Anyone coming into the United States by plane, including U.S. citizens and fully vaccinated people, are required to have a negative COVID-19 test result no more than three days before travel. They can also provide documentation of recovery from COVID-19 in the past three months before boarding a flight to the United States.
Traveling With Children
If you’re traveling with children who are not yet eligible to receive the COVID-19 vaccine, AAA recommends you avoid crowds and close contact with other unvaccinated people who are not a part of your household.
Consider traveling by car or direct flight, AAA advises, which reduces your risk of exposure. If traveling by car, pack snacks and drinks to limit the number of stops during the trip.
Gas Prices In Virginia
How much can you expect to pay at the pump in Virginia? AAA data shows the average price for a gallon of gas in Virginia was $2.958 on Monday. Average prices are updated daily.
If the price of gas sends you into sticker shock, you’re not alone.
AAA said national gasoline prices could see temporary spikes due to Hurricane Ida’s impact on oil production and refineries along the Gulf Coast. The storm has likely taken about 13 percent of U.S. refining capacity offline, AAA said Monday. There were nine oil refineries in Ida’s path. At least four were believed to have shut down operations ahead of the storm, AAA said.
During the run-up to Labor Day weekend, pump prices will likely continue to fluctuate due to high crude oil prices. However, AAA predicts that as gas demand drops considerably following the final holiday weekend of summer, American drivers will see some much-needed relief at the pump.