Summer could be busy for travelers, expert says

Local News

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (WIAT) — Summer is almost here and one travel expert says it will be busy for people wanting to get away.

Clay Ingram, public relations and marketing director with AAA Alabama, said the organization’s travel agents have been extremely been busy booking vacations lately. He said there’s a pent-up demand for travel this year as COVID-19 restrictions ease and more people get vaccinated. That’s making people more comfortable with travel, and they’re starting to book hotels. Right now, it’s not easy to get a hotel in popular vacation destinations like Alabama’s beaches.

“Just be prepared that availability is not as strong as it usually is because there’s just less available and the demand is up significantly,” Ingram said. “So, you need to plan ahead. That’s the secret.”

Though many businesses are rolling back COVID-19 safety restrictions, many hotels are not fully open yet, according to Ingram. That, combined with increasing interest in travel, is making it more difficult to find hotel rooms. Some along Alabama’s beaches are facing another challenge.

“There’s still some along the Gulf Coast that are kind of recovering from the last hurricane that we had, which can be, and usually is, a very slow process,” Ingram said.

Cruise lines are in the process of reopening, and Ingram expects them to have new safety features as a result of the pandemic.

“We’re booking some stuff already, not just for this year but next year, as well,” he said. “And this COVID situation is really going to change the cruising industry quite a bit.”

If you’re traveling by air this summer, be prepared for the possibility of rental car problems when you reach your destination. According to Ingram, many rental car companies sold much of their fleets last year when demand was low. Now, demand is up, and they’re having trouble replacing those cars because of a computer chip shortage in the car manufacturing industry. That means you might encounter shortages of rental cars in popular vacation spots.

“Hawaii, Florida, any type of beachy, touristy type of destination are seeing some higher prices for rental cars and very limited availability, as well,” Ingram said.

Amid the travel challenges, though, you will find some good opportunities. Ingram said there are deals and bargains available for those who act quickly.

“We’re seeing a lot of people book trips to a lot of different places,” Ingram said. “And there are some deals and some bargains out there, but they’re just going quickly.”

If you can’t find the perfect trip this year, you can always plan for next year. That’s what many travelers are doing already. Ingram has seen many people go to backup options for this summer and plan their ideal trip for 2022 or 2023. That means the next two travel seasons could end up being busy, as well.

“The further in advance you can plan, the better,” Ingram said. “Because it helps you not only get the best price but also enables you to go where you want to go when you want to go. And that’s pretty important when you’re investing a good bit of money in a vacation.”

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