Those Columbus-area residents who are heading out of town for the three-day Memorial Day weekend holiday will have a deluge of company on the roads, at the airports and on cruise ships.
In fact, AAA Auto Club Group on Wednesday projected this to be the largest group of travelers venturing away from home in more than a decade, with 39.3 million people traveling 50 miles or farther during the holiday break. In Georgia alone, the number of travelers is expected to be around 1.17 million.
“So far in 2017, travel bookings with AAA in Georgia are up almost 12 percent, compared to the same period last year,” said Vicky Evans, AAA’s assistant vice president of Travel Sales Development. “Higher confidence, rising wages, and recent gas price declines have bolstered consumer spending, leaving many Americans with more money to spend on travel this Memorial Day.”
Money saved at the gas pump is a key driver, with prices this week averaging in the neighborhood that they did during Memorial Day weekend last year. Prices averaged $2.32 per gallon nationally in 2016 and $2.27 per gallon in Georgia, according to the auto club, and they for now are in that vicinity.
Of the total estimated 39.3 million holiday travelers this year, nearly 9 out of 10 of them — or 34.6 million — will be taking to the roads for their getaways, with some people likely tacking on a vacation day or two to the holiday to venture even farther away. About 2.9 Americans will take flights to their destinations, with 1.75 million more using a bus, train or cruise ship to enjoy their time away from home and the workplace.
All modes of transportation are experiencing increases from last year, with those hitting the roads in automobiles, trucks and SUVs expected to encounter extremely crowded highways. It was back in 2005, a couple of summers before the Great Recession, that the roads approached the congestion levels that motorists will see this year, the auto club said.
Based on AAA travel bookings, here are the top U.S. and international destinations for the upcoming Memorial Day weekend:
▪ 1. Orlando, Fla.
▪ 2. Rome, Italy
▪ 3. London, England
▪ 4. Dublin, Ireland
▪ 5. Vancouver, Canada
▪ 6. Seattle, Wash.
▪ 7. Las Vegas, Nev.
▪ 8. New York City
▪ 9. Paris, France
▪ 10. Honolulu, Hawaii
Travel cyber security advice
Here are tips from the National Cyber Security Alliance for using your computer devices and smartphones safely while traveling during the upcoming Memorial Day weekend and summer vacation season:
▪ Lock down your login — Your usernames and passwords are not enough to protect key accounts like email, banking and social media. Prepare by fortifying your online accounts and enabling the strongest authentication tools available, such as biometrics, security keys or a unique one-time code through an app on your mobile device.
▪ Keep a clean machine — Before you leave town, it’s important to make sure all security and critical software is up to date on your internet-connected devices. Keep devices and apps updated during travel, too. It is your best line of defense.
▪ Make sure all devices are password protected — Bolt your digital doors and be sure to use a pass code or security feature, such as a finger swipe, to lock your mobile device.
▪ Own your online presence — Not everyone has to know about your travel escapades and summer fun. Set the privacy and security preferences on web services and devices to your comfort level for sharing. It is OK to limit how and with whom you share information, especially when you are away. That also means thinking twice before posting pictures that would reveal you are not home or that you would not want certain people (such as your parents or employer) to see.
▪ Actively manage location services — Location tools come in handy while planning your trip or navigating a new city, but they can also expose your whereabouts — even through photos. Turn off location services when they’re not in use.
▪ Get savvy about wifi hot spots — Do not transmit personal info or make purchases on unsecure networks like those in local cafes and hotel lobbies. Instead, use a virtual private network (VPN) or your phone’s cellular connection as a personal hotspot to surf more securely. When wifi and Bluetooth are on, they connect and track your whereabouts. If you do not need them, switch them off.
▪ Protect your cash — Be sure to shop or bank only on secure sites. A web address with “https://” means the site takes extra security measures. However, an “http://” address — without the “s” — is not secure. Be extremely cautious on public computers in public places like airports, hotel lobbies and internet cafes. Keep activities as generic and anonymous as possible.