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Labor Day weekend travel on the rise this year, AAA says; Bend top regional destination

The coast definitely has its draw, but Bend remains a top Labor Day weekend travel destination, AAA says
The coast definitely has its draw, but Bend remains a top Labor Day weekend travel destination, AAA says

PORTLAND, Ore., – If you’re traveling for the Labor Day holiday weekend, expect lots of company. AAA booking data for flights, hotels, rental cars and cruises shows Labor Day travel is up compared to last year. Domestic bookings are up 4% - with Bend the top regional destination - and international bookings are up 44%.

While Memorial Day marks the unofficial start to the summer travel season, Labor Day marks the unofficial end. Although this will be a busy travel weekend compared to other weekends in August and September, travel volume over Labor Day is always less than the other major summer holidays, Memorial Day and Independence Day.

With many schools already back in session or starting soon, families tend to take shorter trips that are closer to home over Labor Day. However, those without kids in school often use Labor Day as the kickoff to the fall travel season to take advantage of cooler temperatures, smaller crowds, and off-peak pricing. Destinations in Europe are especially popular for these travelers.

“This year, most Labor Day travelers are heading out on Thursday or Friday before the holiday. Central Oregon and coastal towns along Highway 101 are top regional destinations, while Europe is the international hot spot for Labor Day this year,” says Doreen Loofburrow, Senior Vice President of Travel at AAA Oregon/Idaho.

Top Labor Day destinations

Here are the top destinations for members of AAA Oregon/Idaho, based on searches and bookings:

Labor Day travel 2023

International hotel bookings for the holiday are up 82%, compared to 2022, and international cruise bookings are up 44% over last year. Europe has seen a surge in travel all year, with more people eager to see the world again without restrictions.

Domestic cruise bookings over Labor Day weekend are up 19% over 2022. Gateway cities such as Anchorage, AK and cruise ports in Florida are the most popular.

Labor Day gas prices

Those taking a road trip for the Labor Day holiday will find gas prices lower than last year, when drivers paid the highest prices ever for the holiday. The national average is currently $3.87 and the Oregon average is $4.72 (as of August 21, 2023). Find current gas prices here:

Labor Day travel 2023

This summer, gas prices spiked in July because of tight supply and the high cost of oil. Prices have continued to tick up for much of August. However, prices should remain fairly steady through the Labor Day holiday or even edge lower, barring a refinery or pipeline outage, a major storm in the Gulf of Mexico, or a geo-political event that sends oil prices higher.

Best and worst times to drive

INRIX, a global provider of transportation data and insights, expects the afternoons and evenings of Thursday, August 31 and Friday, September 1 to be the busiest time on the roads during the long Labor Day weekend as holiday travelers mix with commuters. Delays could be 20% to 90% longer than normal at times.

Labor Day travel 2023

“The best times to travel by car over Labor Day weekend are early in the morning or in the evening,” says Marie Dodds, public affairs director for AAA Oregon/Idaho. “Whenever you go, check road and weather conditions at TripCheck or your local transportation department, and use navigation apps to help steer you around long delays.”

More travelers Interested in travel Insurance, extended vacations

A new survey of AAA travel agents reveals topics and trends on the minds of travelers this summer:

  • 59% of AAA travel advisors have seen more interest in travel insurance over the last 60 days.
  • 83% of AAA travel advisors say the most common concern from travelers over the last 60 days was getting stranded by a delayed or canceled flight.
  • 64% of AAA travel advisors say travelers who booked extended vacations (at least 14 nights) said having more time to explore destinations was their main reason for taking an extended trip.
  • AAA travel advisors are seeing high interest among travelers for ocean and river cruises, plus all-inclusive and guided tour vacations.

AAA data shows demand for travel insurance is up more than 100% over last year, as more travelers now see the need to prepare for the unexpected.

“More travelers are interested in travel insurance after the pandemic, realizing that it’s a good idea to protect their investment whether it’s an illness or a cancelled flight. Travelers are also interested in longer trips because of the option to work remotely while they’re away,” says Loofburrow.

AAA strongly recommends travel insurance to cover unexpected delays or trip interruptions. Travel insurance provides a safety net should something unexpected happen ahead of or during your trip. Medical travel insurance can provide coverage for illness and injuries and that may not be included in your regular health insurance plan. Travel agents can also advise on what travel insurance policy makes the most sense for your trip.

Visit or call (800) 529-3222 to reach a AAA travel agent.

Tips for those flying this Labor Day

Airports across the country have seen record numbers of travelers this summer and high travel volumes are expected to continue over the Labor Day holiday weekend. The busiest days to fly are the Thursday and Friday before the holiday, and most return home on Labor Day, which is Monday.

  • Check your airline’s website or download their app to keep up to date on your flight status, including checking one last time right before you leave for the airport. Allow push notifications so the airline can alert you of any changes.
  • Check-in online for flights 24 hours ahead
  • Arrive at the airport at least two hours early for domestic flights and three hours for international. Security lines may be longer than usual due to potential staffing issues and the increase in travelers.
  • Consider booking a flight during non-peak travel periods to cut down on wait times. In general, early morning flights tend to have fewer delays and cancellations than flights later in the day. Over the Labor Day holiday weekend, Thursday, August 30, Friday, September 1, and Monday, September 5 are expected to be the busiest air travel days. Consider avoiding those days if you want smaller crowds.
  • Sign up for TSA PreCheck before your trip. However, even these expedited security check-in lanes will be busier than usual during the holiday weekend.
  • Avoid checking a bag if possible. Bring all medications in your carry-on bag, as well as snacks and a change of clothes. That way you’ll have provisions if your checked bag gets lost or delayed.
  • Plan ahead for meals and snacks. Most airlines have limited meal offerings. Some airlines let you pre-order food for your flight. Bring an empty water bottle through security and then fill it before your flight.

AAA to the rescue this Labor Day weekend

AAA expects to respond to about 315,000 calls for roadside assistance nationally and 6,300 in Oregon this Independence Day weekend, with the most common issues being dead batteries, flat tires, and lockouts. 

AAA makes it easy to request assistance—by phone or text (1-800-AAA-HELP), app or online—and members can track the service technician’s progress as they make their way to your vehicle.

Make sure your car is road-trip ready. Have your vehicle inspected by a trusted repair shop, such as one of the more than 7,000 AAA Approved Auto Repair facilities across North America.

Be prepared for emergencies with a mobile phone and car charger, and well-stocked emergency kit including a flashlight with extra batteries, first-aid kit, a basic toolkit, jackets and blankets, and drinking water and snacks for all passengers and pets. Bring extra masks and cleaning supplies, including hand sanitizer and disinfecting wipes. Share your itinerary with family or friends so that authorities know where to start looking for you if you don’t reach your destination.

Article Topic Follows: Bend

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