Break out your Waze app or load a few movies onto your iPad—it’s going to be a busy weekend for travelers. According to AAA, 35.5 million Americans are expected to hit the road or cross the sky this Labor Day weekend. That’s about 800,000 more people heading out than last year, so plan for traffic jams and security lines to be a little longer.
A survey by the U.S. Travel association estimates that each traveler will spend $380, making for a total of $13.5 billion filtered into local economies. In spite of the fun of traveling with friends or family, the actual travel can get expensive and/or frustrating at times, so here are a few tips for easing the pain (and feeling better than everyone else around you on the freeway or in the airport).
Smartphone Leverage – Uncountable apps exist to make Labor Day travel easier and more cost-effective. The aforementioned Waze helps navigate or even avoid traffic jams. GasBuddy saves you cash at the pump. The Hotels.com app can help you find discounted or even free rooms (if you’ve used the service enough to earn a freebie). Sadly, there’s no app to take care of airport security for you, but Airport Maps helps you navigate dozens of major U.S. airports, inside and out.
Keep it Local – Most American cities have great things to see and do within a drive of an hour or two. State or national parks, small roadside attractions, quaint, small-town downtown districts, fishing lakes and more may be easy to reach from home. The shorter trip means you take local roads instead of log-jammed freeways. Daily deal websites such as Goldstar and Living Social can show you what’s nearby, and often offer deals to help keep costs down.
Airport Expert – There are a ton of ways to ease the airport experience on busy holidays like Labor Day. Start with joining the TSA’s PreCheck program. It’s $85 for five years, and you get to skip the long security lines, leave your shoes and laptop undisturbed and more. Also, pack light. Like a single backpack light. It’s a weekend trip, you don’t need your entire closet. Online check in (up to 24 hours ahead of departure) saves you from the kiosk and agent lines, and if you packed light, you can go straight from passenger drop-off to security. Use that extra time to grab a pre-flight cocktail near the gate—your airline app will alert you when it’s time to board.
Stay Put – Make others do the traveling by hosting a good ol’ American backyard barbecue for Labor Day. Burgers, hot dogs and kebabs are simple and inexpensive—or draw more people by cooking up some barbecue chicken or ribs. Even a last-minute invitation over Facebook or text message will get people over, and a quick trip to the supermarket will be your only pain point. Task others with bringing sides and drinks to make it even easier on your wallet.