After months of staying at home during the COVID-19 pandemic, travelers may start to head out on shorter trips over the Labor Day weekend, and state highway officials are urging residents to consider traveling during non-peak hours to avoid possible congestion.
Tourism has been one of the sections of the economy that’s been hardest hit by the pandemic, with businesses shut down and people quarantining in their homes through much of the spring and summer, said Ragina Ali, a spokeswoman for AAA Mid-Atlantic.
As the summer winds down, AAA is seeing more interest in travel, but with people staying closer to home on short road trips, rather than flying or going on cruises as they often did before the pandemic, she said.
They’re also seeing more interest in people looking for scenic drives or to visit national parks, Ali said.
Before the pandemic hit, travel numbers were as high as they’d been in decades, as tourism bounced back from the effects of the Great Recession.
More than 100 million Americans were expected to have traveled during the Christmas and New Year’s holidays in 2019, according to AAA.
With Marylanders taking to the road for the Labor Day weekend, the State Highway Administration is urging drivers to consider traveling on off-hours to avoid heavy traffic.
Increased traffic volume in the Washington, D.C. and Baltimore regions was expected to start on Thursday afternoon and continue throughout the weekend, according to an SHA release.
Traffic is expected to be especially heavy along highways such as U.S. 50, and Interstate 70, I-95, I-81 and I-68.
Traffic is traditionally heavy on Saturday and Sunday of Labor Day weekend, and drivers should expect delays on Monday as people head home from their vacations, the release said.
Ali said lower gas prices might be one of the factors leading more people to get away for the weekend.
Prices are as low as they’ve been on Labor Day since 2016, with Maryland’s average of $2.27 per gallon down 16 cents from 2019, she said.