Summer doesn't officially begin until June 21, but the real kick off is Memorial Day Weekend. This is the first long weekend of the year when the weather is actually nice, and the last one for three months. And after the winter we've had, people are itching to travel, embrace the summer and enjoy some warmer temperatures.
I am among those eager travelers. I am currently sitting in the O'Hare airport, waiting to board a plane to Austin for my good friend Laura's bachelorette party. Of course, I had to pick the busiest travel day of the weekend, and I'm flying from one of the destinations that is expected to get the most visitors this Memorial Day.
According to travel website, Orbitz, Chicago is one of the top five most popular destinations people will travel to this weekend, along with Las Vegas, New York, Punta Cana and Cancun. Priceline places Orlando and San Diego in its top five list, so clearly there is no guaranteed algorithm for figuring out where people are going. The bottom line is...they're going.
Nationally, about 36.1 million people will hit the road during the holiday weekend, according to AAA auto club, up 1.5% from 2013. The national travel estimate is 2.6% higher than its 10-year historical average and the second highest since 2000. The numbers indicate a new high as the economy continues to recover from the recession, the unemployment rate has dropped and overall consumer confidence is on the rise.
With all this activity, I was sure the airport would be a zoo, with long lines to check bags and get through security. So I took the cautious route and hopped on the Blue Line at 5:30am to get to O'Hare by 6am for my 8:30am flight – considerably earlier than I usually arrive for a domestic flight. To my chagrin, there were plenty of open kiosks, and I checked my bag in less than five minutes. And the security line? Non existent! I was through the line and sitting in the airline lounge by 6:15am...seriously. Are they sure about this travel rush?
I'm not saying I don't believe the predictions, I anticipate that it will get worse later in the day, since many people still work on the Friday before Memorial Day and then leave early or right when the clock hits 5pm. But maybe it won't be as crazy as we all think. Then again, I could be sorely mistaken. I return from my Austin adventure on Monday, probably the second-busiest travel day of the weekend. And I don't have the good fortune of an early flight. So we'll see what happens then.
Good luck to everyone traveling this weekend. I wish you all the best kick off to summer and a great Memorial Day.
And please, feel free to share your weekend destinations. I'd like to create my own list of top destinations based off responses I get from people. Maybe I'll ask a few folks here in the lounge...let the polling begin.