As Labor Day weekend shifts into full gear, millions of Americans are hitting the road for one last gasp of summer.
According to AAA, booking data for flights, hotels, rentals cars and cruises for the holiday weekend are up over last year – with domestic reservations 4% higher and international bookings up by 44%.
“Most travelers will leave on Thursday and Friday before Labor Day to take advantage of the long holiday weekend,” said Paula Twidale, senior vice president of AAA Travel, in a press release.
Locally, the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey estimates that 6.5 million travelers will fly, ride or drive through its facilities and crossings over the holiday weekend – including an anticipated 2.3 million passengers flying through its four airports (which would mark a 3% increase over pre-pandemic 2019) and as many 4.2 million vehicles expected to cross its six bridges and tunnels (which would be on pace with 2019).
The agency is defining the holiday as Aug. 31-Sept. 5. To accommodate the anticipated volume, the Port Authority is suspending all non-emergency repair projects at its vehicular crossings until Tuesday at 5 a.m.
Travelers who are hitting the road by car are once again seeing elevated prices at the pump, which have begun to creep back up near the $4 per gallon mark this summer, sparking reminders of last year’s brutal bills.
As of the writing of this story, New Jersey’s average fuel price is $3.66 per gallon, while the national average is $3.81 per gallon.
In its preview of the holiday weekend travel, GasBuddy noted that prices had remained relatively quiet for much of this summer, but began spiking in late July and August as Saudi Arabia and Russia cut production, pushing oil prices higher, along with refinery disruptions that contributed to a nearly 35-cent jump.
Patrick De Haan, head of petroleum analysis at GasBuddy, said that while gas prices have started to ease as the season winds down, there still could be one last hurrah at the pump before things cool off this fall.
“Oil prices have eased slightly on concerns over China’s struggling economy, and as oil production increases in the U.S. to nearly pre-COVID levels. However, with the tropics becoming more active in recent weeks, there remains threats to gas prices for the next few weeks,” said De Haan. “If we can escape further unexpected oil production cuts and outrages due to hurricanes, we may avoid an unexpected surge in gas prices, with the downturn accelerating as we get into late-September and stations transition back to cheaper gasoline.
“We could see national average of $3.25/gal by the end of the year if all goes well,” he added.
On the rails, NJ Transit announced it is kicking off the holiday weekend with “early getaway” rail and bus service Friday to help customers’ commutes if they leave work early to enjoy the last long weekend of summer. The agency is also extending its Family SuperSaver Fare, which allows two children 11 and younger to travel free with each fare-paying adult, until Sept. 5.
Whether you’re traveling or not, this correspondent is wishing all New Jerseyans a happy, safe and healthy holiday weekend!