Tray tables up: As vaccinations surge, so do airfares

Earlier this month, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued new guidance easing coronavirus-related recommendations on travel throughout the U.S., saying fully-vaccinated Americans could safely travel again without needing to be tested or having to quarantine afterward.

After more than a year of the pandemic, many Americans were clearly ready to hit the roads — and take to the skies. Last weekend, the Transportation Security Administration reported screening more than 1.5 million travelers on a single day — near a pandemic-level high — and tons more than the 91,000 passengers screened on the day last year.

But if you got your two shots and you’re looking to travel, fasten your seat belts: Airfares are climbing quickly and so are hotel rates.

“Short-term bookings and long-term bookings are way up,” CBS News Travel Editor Peter Greenberg told WTOP. He said airfares and hotel rates are increasing at the rate of about 7% a week.

“So, I’m not telling everybody to book today, but you might want to look ahead and book tomorrow,” he said.

Already, fares are “getting out of control,” Greenberg said.

Right now, Hawaii is a hot spot, with hotel rooms in the Aloha State already going for as much as $800 a night. “A rental car in Hawaii has been as high — I’m not making this up — as $1,000 a day,” he added.

Rental car prices in Florida have also been on a “surge,” he said, saying a rate of $300 a day is not unusual.

Planning a big camping getaway? National parks are also filling up, too.

“The reservations are going through the roof,” Greenberg said.

Still, there are some strategies to consider. If national parks are full, state parks are a “viable alternative,” Greenberg said.

Smart travelers, looking for deals and maybe something off the beaten track, are also looking to the Midwest, according to Greenberg.

“They’re looking at Wisconsin and Iowa and Michigan and Minnesota. They’re looking at parts of the Southwest, not necessarily Arizona, which is spiking, but maybe New Mexico,” he said.

Overall, airlines are expecting a “huge boom” in domestic travel. For months, given stagnant air travel amid the pandemic, airlines had been forced to park unused jets on runways.

“So by May 15, all those planes you saw parked on runways will be in the air,” Greenberg said.

And they’ll be going to more destinations, in part to fill the pent-up demand for people looking to get away from it all.

Greenberg said airlines are looking to “flood the zone for outdoor destinations,” Greenberg said. For example, this summer, he said Bozeman, Montana, — population: less than 50,000 — will have air service from eight different airlines, “because of its proximity to national parks.”

He added, “You’re going to see that in every place from Eugene, Oregon, to Myrtle Beach to Hilton Head, South Carolina, to Travers City, Michigan — secondary and tertiary cities that are going to get a lot of air service this summer.”

Jack Moore

Jack Moore joined WTOP.com as a digital writer/editor in July 2016. Previous to his current role, he covered federal government management and technology as the news editor at Nextgov.com, part of Government Executive Media Group.

This content was republished with permission from CNN.

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