VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. – Many out-of-towners are getting a jump start on their Labor Day weekend, soaking up the sun at the Virginia Beach Oceanfront.
“It's been a long year,” said Jayme Shufelt of Saratoga, NY. “We needed to get away just like everybody.”
Summer travel is trending up and this holiday, AAA expects to see numbers at pre-pandemic levels with more people hitting the road than taking to the skies even after a slight bump in gas prices thanks to Hurricane Ida.
“What we've seen in the last two holidays between Memorial Day and the Fourth of July was the travel had actually rebounded to 2019 levels, and in some instances almost surpassed it, and we really expect that Labor Day will follow suit,” said Holly Dalby, AAA public affairs director for Tidewater Virginia.
At some hotels on the Oceanfront, rooms are sold out. Virginia Restaurant, Lodging & Travel Association President Eric Terry said hotel bookings are up about 4% compared to last year.
Virginia Beach tourist Art Dilworth and his wife Evelyn were going to extend their stay, but their hotel didn’t have any more rooms available for the holiday weekend.
“We asked about another night, he said, ‘Not here,’” laughed Art Dilworth.
According to Dalby, many people made the decision to keep travel plans over the holidays last year, despite the climbing COVID cases and CDC warnings.
Some people, however, are bucking that advice.
“The CDC definitely didn't scare us,” said Shufelt. “We've been living it, and we just needed to get away like everyone else and clear our minds.”
Shufelt and her boyfriend Chris Gordon are visiting from upstate New York. They said they’ve had COVID and don’t intend to get the shot.
“I personally don't live my life in fear,” Shufelt said. “Vaccination, for me, it's not something I need if I'm in good health.”
Dr. Ryan Light, who practices family medicine with the Tidewater Physicians Multispecialty Group, warns the unvaccinated remain the most vulnerable.
“If you're unvaccinated, you got to be careful,” Light said. “The Delta variant is easily transmittable. It is causing some serious illness out there. We see the hospitalization numbers growing.”
According to health experts, those who are fully vaccinated can travel with precautions, including wearing masks in crowded areas.
“If you're going out, you should wear those masks,” said Light. “You should have good hand hygiene. Look on the CDC websites to see wherever you’re traveling to, how much prevalence there is of COVID-19 in that area.”
One couple from Phoenix, AZ is heeding the CDC’s advice, knowing the risks involved even among the fully vaccinated.
“We're cautious,” said Evelyn Dilworth. “Even though we're vaccinated, we still have our hand sanitizer; we still have our masks when we go into a crowd or a store.”
Though the Dilworths will be playing it safe this holiday weekend, they’re making the most of it as they worry about the weeks ahead.
“We're not going to sit around, because we know it’s coming back with a vengeance,” said Art Dilworth of Phoenix. “We know there’s going be a lockdown, at least I believe that. So, the opportunity to take advantage of this now, we’re doing.”
Drivers hitting the road this weekend, will notice gas prices in some areas are more than $3. AAA said after the holiday weekend when demand dips, prices will slowly come back down.