Memorial Day Travel Could Be More Expensive This Year

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Planning a late May getaway? Prepare to pay more.

If you're looking forward to getting away this Memorial Day weekend, you're not alone. AAA Travel predicts that 60% more Americans will travel over the holiday weekend this year compared to last. When we consider that last Memorial Day was a precarious time for so many people, financially and health-wise, that increase makes sense. But if you're going to hit the road for Memorial Day, gear up to spend more than usual.

What will a weekend getaway cost you?

Memorial Day weekend is a great time to travel -- it's the unofficial start of the summer (even though summer doesn't technically begin till later in June) and it's an extra day off work for many people. But if you're traveling this Memorial Day weekend, be prepared for some sticker shock at the pump.

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A combination of the Colonial Pipeline shutdown following a cyber attack and higher demand could cause gas prices to surpass $3 a gallon, leaving road-trippers to pay a lot more. And an estimated 34 million people are expected to travel by car this Memorial Day -- a 52% jump compared to last Memorial Day.

Gas prices aside, if you're taking a trip over Memorial Day, expect to pay more for a hotel as well. Hotel prices have climbed as demand has increased, and since prices peak during holiday weekends, your room rate may end up being much higher than you'd normally anticipate.

How to budget for your weekend trip

So you've decided to get out of town this Memorial Day. Great. To avoid debt once your trip is over, do some planning.

First, research a few destinations of interest and see what it costs to get there. Driving will almost always be less expensive than flying if you're traveling in a group (with friends or family), even with higher gas prices, so if you land on a destination that's doable by car, you'll cut your costs.

Next, figure out lodging. If you're going somewhere with a larger group, renting a private home from a site like VRBO or Airbnb may prove more cost effective than booking hotel rooms.

Finally, figure out meals and entertainment. If you book a private home with a kitchen, cooking your meals will keep your food costs low, whereas having to dine out or do takeout for every meal will make your trip more expensive. Similarly, if you're going to spend the weekend hiking and boating, that's apt to be much cheaper than visiting theme parks. Map out the costs and make sure they work for your travel budget.

At the same time, use the right credit card when booking your trip. If you have a travel rewards card that gives you bonus points for hotel rooms and flights, that's a good option. You may even have points you can cash in for a free stay or flight. Meanwhile, if you're taking a road trip, see which of your credit cards offers the most cash back for fill-ups at the pump.

Now that the pandemic seems to be easing up, many of us are itching to travel. The good news is that it may be a lot safer to leave town this Memorial Day weekend than it was last year. Just don't be surprised if it costs you more.

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