‘Tis the Season for Travel Concerns

Ella Sharrers, Staff Writer

The holiday season is an insanely popular time for people to travel. Taking advantage of the two weeks off of school, seeing family after a long time, and getting away from cold weather are common reasons for winter getaways — but in the midst of an ongoing pandemic, what will holiday season travel look like this year?

An article by the Washington Post says that “the Washington [D.C.] region is bracing for its busiest holiday season in nearly two years,” and the influx of holiday travelers could possibly cause a rise in COVID-19 cases. Junior Hannah Chang thinks that there might be “a spike in cases considering the amount of people traveling.” This is an issue all travelers must consider, especially with the rampant Delta variant and newly discovered Omicron. An article from Travel + Leisure states that roughly 53.4 million Americans were predicted to travel for Thanksgiving, and “4.2 million of those slated to fly.” Considering the 2020 holiday season was spent in the height of a global pandemic, these numbers are jarring. Senior Nate Galit notes that “now with vaccines, people are probably getting tired of being inside,” and it is not hard to agree with this statement — Many Americans are experiencing pandemic fatigue. In the same article by the Washington Post, it is said that the “[American Automobile Association] (AAA) predicts] an 80 percent jump in passengers” for 2021 Thanksgiving, which is a staggering difference compared to the AAA’s  predicted “2.4 million Americans” in 2020. Freshman Jaden Arnold will be traveling this Christmas, and his family “will be taking extra precautions” amidst these high numbers and the constant worries about COVID. Arnold says that he was “always worried about getting sick,” so even with his entire family vaccinated, Arnold does not feel totally safe on airplanes. Chang agrees that there are some areas that could be improved in the safety of air travel in these times. As the number of travelers increases, the chance of getting sick grows as well. Chang says, “It would be hard to just expect all individuals to wear their mask since many people can be uncooperative,” which is the unfortunate reality when it comes to wearing masks. The article from the Washington Post states that “travelers seem to feel more confident after getting vaccinated.” Galit will be seeing his Grandma in Chicago for “the first time in three years” this holiday season, and they worry about the “underlying chance” of getting COVID from traveling this year. All in all, regardless of vaccination status and being extra aware of safety measures to take, there is always a sort of uncertainty when it comes to traveling this holiday season. 

Sophomore Haley Ross traveled to Hawaii for Thanksgiving this year, and she wishes people were more respectful of “personal space and social distancing” after her recent firsthand experience with airport situations. Ross is glad that she and her family have had “no COVID scares,” but states, “COVID and airports can be scary… it is always something to worry about.” The uncertainty does not stop at just passengers — an article by The New York Times warns that “the experience of travel continues to be affected by staffing and other challenges. Your hotel’s restaurant may be closed, for instance, and daily room cleaning is only available upon request in many places.” With a seemingly never-ending shortage of staff, and therefore lack of services provided before the COVID pandemic, hotels and resorts are also facing tough times during one of the most popular times for travel during the year. Later on in the article, it is said that “rental cars remain in short supply, and prices are high, in some cases double or triple pre-pandemic rates… airlines have canceled hundreds of flights in the last several months, including recent cancellations by Southwest Airlines and American Airlines.” Along with COVID, there are many different tribulations that could come into play when traveling this season. 

Airports are stressful enough, with long lines, possible flight delays or cancellations, or the chance of losing luggage. According to The Vacationer’s 2021 Holiday Travel Survey, “161 million American adults or nearly 63 percent of people will travel this holiday season,” and this number is sure to shock people when reentering the airport scene after so long at home — for some, this season is the first time they have traveled since the start of the pandemic. In The Vacationer’s survey, they recorded that “last year’s Christmas survey showed 33.46 percent intended to travel… this year’s figure shows 47.39 percent intend to travel, which is a 41.36 percent increase.” With crowds that rival those of the 2019 holiday season, what are some extra measures travelers can take to keep themselves and others safe? Chang and Galit both want to see travelers keep their masks on as much as possible, and Galit encourages people to “get vaccinated if they are able to.” Arnold and Ross both hope to see travelers continue to stay socially distanced. All things considered, as long as passengers wear their masks and diligently follow safety precautions, this holiday season has the potential to ring in the joy that everybody needs this year.