After a year of restrictions, Americans went on holiday weekend trips in droves.
With half the country at least partially protected from the coronavirus, Americans emerged from pandemic apathy this past three-day weekend and gave free rein to their wanderlust at the threshold of summer.
While last year Americans restricted travel over the long Memorial Day weekend because of concerns about the virus spreading, this time they took to the road by air and by land.
The Transportation Security Administration reported that 7.1 million people were screened at U.S. airports from Thursday through Sunday.
Friday, May 28, was the busiest day since March 2020, when the COVID-19 epidemic sapped demand for air travel. On that day, 1.96 million people were screened at airports.
Last week, the American Automobile Association AAA estimated that holiday weekend travel would increase by 60 percent, with 37 million people expected to travel at least 80 miles away from home.
United Airlines said it predicted Monday would be the busiest day in terms of travel since March 2020.
It expected to carry 1.34 million passengers during the five-day holiday period, down from 2.3 million during the same period in 2019.
According to GasBuddy, U.S. gasoline demand on Sunday was up 9.6 percent from the average of the previous four Sundays and was the highest Sunday demand since the summer of 2019.
Patty Doxey, 63, of Red Hook, N.Y., decided to take a 10-hour trip to Great Smokey Mountains National Park in Tennessee with her husband.
They were vaccinated and were going to spend a week there in hopes of seeing a light show of synchronized fireflies.
The couple had intended to go to the national park last year, but the pandemic disrupted their plans, she reported.
“I’m so excited,” Doxie told a reporter in Kingston, N.Y. – It’s been a very long year, and we love to travel.”
As of Sunday, 50.5 percent of the U.S. population had received at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine, the CDC Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported.
While the average daily number of new cases in seven days in early January was more than 250,000, Saturday’s figure was only 18,900, the lowest number since March 2020, the CDC said.
The top tourist destinations on Memorial Day this year were Las Vegas, Nevada, and Orlando, Florida, AAA reported.