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Travel Numbers Increase for Memorial Day Weekend as More Citizens Become Vaccinated

Peoria International Airport

After a year of being locked in their homes, people are ready to take summer vacations and kickoff Memorial Day weekend.

Thirty-seven million people are expected to travel in 2021, a 60% increase from Memorial Day in 2020. In Illinois alone, 4.8 million citizens will be traveling 50 miles or more from their homes.

AAA Chicago spokesperson Molly Hart says the most popular national destinations for Memorial Day weekend are Orlando, Las Vegas, Denver, Nashville and Myrtle Beach.

"2020 was a long year. People are itching to get out and go do something…go to a great destination, and what we’re also seeing is people are going to beaches to mountains. So still looking at outdoor areas where they can enjoy themselves," she said.

Hart says the AAA is happy that more people are traveling in 2021. She encourages people to continue monitoring CDC guidelines and to make sure they know which restrictions have been lifted at their vacation destination. And she has a reminder for travelers who are a little dusty on the road.

“One of the things we certainly want to remind drivers is, because many of them didn’t drive far distances last year, to again remain focused on the driving," Hart said.

William Winkler, President of Peoria Charter Coach Company, is also looking forward to the increase in travel this Memorial Day.

“I just thank the CDC for their guidelines and for opening up our state. Even though I’m excited, everybody has suffered through this," Winkler said. "Yes, my business has suffered, but there are many people who have suffered with their lives and their health.”

Winkler says those who choose to travel by charter bus will be offered hand sanitizer to eliminate the spread of germs while on the coaches. Masks are required for nonvaccinated passengers.

Gene Olson, Director of the Peoria International Airport, said in May 2020, only 11,700 travelers flew due to the pandemic. In April of this year, more than 30,000 people traveled, and Olson says he is excited by the continually growing traveler numbers.

“We’re a small airport. We’re very convenient. It’s not difficult to socially distance in our terminal, so you’re not standing in big, huge lines most of the time," Olson said. "If you’re going to travel by air, then the small airport, and especially our airport, is one of the safest ways to do it.“

Social distancing and masks are still required in the airports by everyone, and travelers must arrive 90 minutes to two hours before flight times.

Many are traveling by air during Memorial Day weekend. Cody Myers travels often for work, and he says his experience flying this May was positive because many people respect social distancing in local airports.

“If you’re in some of the smaller ones, there’s usually not that many people there anyway. And some of the larger airports, like I came in from O’Hare, it is a little bit harder to stay socially distant, but they try and remind people that as best they can and try and have seating blocked out to where they’re keeping people apart," said Myers.

Another Peoria Airport flyer, Barbara Gibson, says she recently traveled to Phoenix and had a great experience.

“I have to say the airline, American Airlines, was super good. They give your wipes. They were just perfect, all the cleanliness and everything," she said.

Cindy and Dwayne Charles said they feel safe traveling this May because they are vaccinated, though they initially had concerns about the lack of social distancing on the airplane.

“Every time we get on a plane, they hand you a hand sanitizer for you to actually be able to wipe where you’re sitting and stuff," said Cindy Charles.

“Yeah, overall, I think they’re doing a pretty good job. I think they’re doing what they can, and the rest of it’s up to the individual," said Dwayne Charles.

While fewer restrictions make traveling easier now than this time last year, expect things to still feel a little different, whether you're on the road or in the air for Memorial Day weekend.

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