10 Ways to Take the Stress Out of Labor Day Weekend Travel
Holiday weekends are popular times to travel, which is why they can also be stressful. Here's how to relax, save, and avoid traffic when the entire country is hitting the road.
Be smart about traffic
If you’re driving, know where it’s most likely to be bad. For trouble-free car travel, refresh you driving etiquette. “We took a look at data from the Federal Highway Administration to see where the worst congestion is likely to be over Labor Day Weekend,” says Clem Bason, the CEO of value hotel search site goSeek.com and former president of hotwire.com. “They publish year-over-year growth in millions of miles driven by month by state.” Although the last available month is May, Bason can project the growth rates through summer and into Labor Day. Given that, here are the states where you’ll want to get an early start on your travels:
Bad all over: California, North Carolina, Florida
Slow near big towns and beaches: Maryland, Missouri, Pennsylvania
Isolated troubles near popular destinations: Utah, Nevada, Colorado
Flying? Get pre-approved
Get TSAPre, the pre-approval from the Transportation Security Administration that will allow you to keep your shoes and belt on, your laptop in it’s bag, and even take some liquids with you. “It halves (or more) the stress associated with going through airport security. Don’t want to pay for it? A number of credit cards cover the application fee as a member benefit. Perhaps it’s time for a new card!” says Bason. TSAPre and other pre-screening programs will save you serious time at the airport.
Labor Day weekend isn’t the biggest of holidays, so many hotels and resorts won’t be full. And if they’re not, they’ll cut prices as you approach the weekend, hoping to entice people who were on the fence to take a trip. Check out these other hotel-booking secrets. Even if you’ve already booked, you can potentially take advantage of these price drops. “First, check to see if your current hotel booking is refundable. If it is, you can typically cancel up to 48 hours before check-in without a fee,” says Bason. If this is the case, go do some searches in your destination on web sites that specialize in last minute discounts, about 3-4 days before your trip, says Bason. Check HotelTonight, Hotwire, Priceline, and goSeek.
Do a little extra digging
Doing your research can pay off, big time. “You may find a great rate at a great hotel that beats what you currently have booked. If so, take the five minutes, book the new hotel and cancel the old,” says Bason. “You’d be shocked at how much you can save this way. Last minute bookings can knock up to 50 percent off the daily hotel rate.”
Save $$ on car rentals
Check Costco and/or AAA, even if you’re not a member. Often the discounts are so good they’ll pay for a membership and then some. “Both will sometimes throw in perks like a free extra driver. You’ll be booking with reputable car rental agencies like Hertz, Avis, and Budget, and in most cases the reservations are fully cancelable,” says Bason. Also, make sure you’re aware of these car rental ripoffs.
Skip the car rental lines
Join the loyalty program for the car rental agency (like Hertz Gold Plus, Avis Preferred or Budget Fastbreak). “It’s free, and doing so lets you bypass the counter where there are often very, very, very long lines,” says Bason. “You can go right to the lot to pick up your car. Once you’ve joined the loyalty program, also make sure to download the app. That way you’ll have all your information handy.”
Insure your trip
While traveling during Labor Day, travel insurance can offer peace of mind for any unexpected occurrences such as illness, trip cancelations/delays or lost/stolen luggage. (It’s one of the things you can do to ensure you have the best vacation ever.) Your travel insurance provider will also be there for you 24/7 to answer questions and help with problems.
When traveling with seniors, take extra measures to be ready for medical emergencies. With the proper travel insurance plan, travelers are protected against high medical costs in case of sudden illness or injury. Sometimes Medicare isn’t enough, so having travel insurance with sufficient medical coverage guarantees you won’t have to pay out-of-pocket for international care if you do need medical treatment. The Allianz TravelSmart app provides helpful tools, like a database of approved healthcare facilities overseas, local emergency numbers, one touch dialing to reach us in an emergency and more.
Take some more time
Don’t be shy about extending the trip—it could save you money by not traveling on the busiest days, and you won’t be on the road or in the air at the same time as everyone else. If possible, leave Thursday and return on Tuesday, says lifestyle expert Robert E. Blackmon. “Having more vacation and avoiding busier travel days equals less stress.”
Sometimes packing is the hardest part of travel, especially if you happen to have kids. While packing ahead so it’s not a last-minute rush is always a great way to avoid stress, an even easier bet is if you find ways to leave stuff at home. (Check out these other common vacation packing mistakes.) For example, with Babierge, parents can fly with babies and carry-on luggage only, by having baby gear, toys, food, drinks, diapers, and maternity gear (giant pillows that help mom sleep comfortably) delivered and set up at their hotel, or handed off to them at the airport—now in 72 markets. They can get safety gates too!