BOISE – If you’re planning one last summer getaway for Labor Day weekend, you’re not alone.  According to new data by AAA, domestic bookings (flights, hotels, rental cars, and cruises) are up 4% from a year ago, and international bookings are up 44%.

“Inflation, school obligations, and even higher gas prices aren’t preventing most travelers from ending their summer on a high note,” says AAA Idaho public affairs director Matthew Conde.  “Memorial Day and Independence Day travel have already made 2023 a year for the record books, and while we don’t track the total volume for Labor Day, we anticipate a very busy weekend.”

AAA says that the busiest times on the road will be Thursday, August 31 between 2:00 PM and 6:00 PM and throughout the day on Friday.  Leaving early in the morning on either of these days could spare travelers from peak traffic congestion.

“When it comes to vacation destinations, Labor Day can be a little polarizing.  Some families will soak up the sun in places like Anaheim and Las Vegas.  Others will take head into parts of Canada and Alaska,” Conde said.  “Some travelers may also have the ability to extend their trip and avoid the big crowds after the holiday weekend, either because they don’t have kids in school, or because they have the ability to work remotely.”

Other top destinations include Glacier National Park, Yellowstone, Grand Teton, and Salt Lake City.  Like Memorial Day, Labor Day is a popular time for barbecues, camping, and family reunions.  Traffic on two-lane highways could become very sluggish at times.

It will also be a busy weekend for AAA emergency road service, with nearly 317,000 service requests expected nationwide, with as many as 700 here in Idaho.  While roughly 40% of the calls will result in a tow, dead batteries, flat tires, and vehicle lockouts will also be major, but preventable, culprits.  Drivers are encouraged to visit a trusted mechanic for a pre-trip inspection before they hit the road.

International hotel bookings are up 82% compared to AAA’s 2022 booking data, and international cruise bookings are up 44%.  Vancouver, B.C., Rome, London, Dublin, and Paris will be very popular destinations this year, along with European river and Caribbean cruises. Idaho gas prices, while climbing, will not deter a Labor Day road trip.  Today’s average price for regular is $4.12 per gallon, which is six cents more than a week ago and 23 cents more than a month ago, but 53 cents less than a year ago.

The national average currently sits at $3.87 per gallon, which is two cents more than a week ago, 27 cents more than a month ago, and just four cents less than a year ago.

AAA says that expensive crude oil is keeping gas prices elevated, with the West Texas Intermediate benchmark for crude currently trading near $81 per barrel.  Based on market response to the ongoing possibility of a global recession, pump prices could wobble back and forth into mid-September or even beyond.

“Some of the refineries in the Midwest, including in Texas, Oklahoma, and Kansas, could also feel the effects of a ‘heat dome’ that may push temperatures higher this week,” Conde said.  “If that happens, you may see refineries scale back production to avoid a major breakdown, just as you would with an overheated engine.”

AAA Travel Agent Research

A new survey of AAA travel agents reveals some of today’s trending topics for travelers:

  • 59% of AAA travel agents have seen more interest in travel insurance over the last 60 days, which protects your travel investment in the event of trip interruption
  • 83% of agents say that the most common concern over the past 60 days was getting stranded by a delayed or canceled flight.
  • 64% of AAA travel agents say travelers who booked extended vacations (at least 14 nights) did so because they wanted more time to explore their destination.

“Airlines are combatting staffing shortages by using bigger airplanes and fewer flights.  While the vast majority of these flights are getting where they need to go without a hitch, we emphasize the importance of packing medications, documents, a change of clothes, and other essential items in your carry-on bag,” Conde said.  “That way, you’ll have a good starting point if you do need to work with the airline to come up with an alternate plan.”