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Going On Vacation? Here's What You Need To Know About The Summer Travel Boom

LULU GARCIA-NAVARRO, HOST:

OK. So you're ready. You've been cooped up for a year. And the wide-open roads and skies are calling. Some 7 out of every 10 Americans or more are, according to the U.S. Travel Association, indeed, now planning a vacation. One tiny problem - car rentals, hotel rooms, even campsites are now almost impossible to come by. It seems some of us spent this pandemic wisely planning ahead for summer travel. And some of us, like me, did not. Erika Richter is with the American Society of Travel Advisors. And she joins me now from Portland, Ore. Welcome.

ERIKA RICHTER: Hi. Thank you for having me.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: What are some of the most popular destinations this summer? Everything seems booked up.

RICHTER: Yes, that is true. And the usuals are most popular this year - Hawaii, Florida, the Outer Banks, South Carolina. We're seeing even Las Vegas topping the list.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: I mean, when you look at the landscape, how tough are things to book right now? It looks hard, but also, the prices seem pretty high.

RICHTER: Yes, but here's the thing. If you're not booking your summer trip by this weekend, the prices are going to continue to go up. And that is just the reality on airfare - yes, even on hotels. With increased demand, there's going to be less availability.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: What else is behind why people are anxious to get out and away this summer beyond the pandemic?

RICHTER: Well, we spent a year reflecting. Who are we? What matters to us? Where's my bucket list, and how soon can I get to it? With the year of isolation and missed connections, family gatherings, weddings - and also, travel's how we heal. It's part of getting back with our loved ones and returning to a better world.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: International travel, of course, is very attractive to many people. What is going on there? Where are people looking to if they are deciding that they want to head out of the country?

RICHTER: Well, Mexico continues to top the list and other countries like Greece that have been open to Americans and Croatia, Spain and Portugal. Right now, Italy is opening. But there's a lot of complications. So right now, Italy still has a curfew in place. And there are restrictions for quarantine if you are not vaccinated. But that's not stopping them from booking in anticipation of that. And we're hearing that travelers are booking into 2022, 2023. If you are thinking that you want to travel in the next six months, you need to have booked yesterday.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: It's always surprising to me which conversations are going to make me cry. And this is one.

(LAUGHTER)

GARCIA-NAVARRO: I have not booked anything yet. Are you planning a vacation this summer? And where have you booked? Because you clearly are someone who thinks ahead.

RICHTER: So this summer, I'm going out to the Oregon coast. I'm actually bringing my family out. We're all vaccinated. I haven't seen my parents in over a year and a half.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Just quickly - helpful hints for those of us trying to navigate this very competitive cycle for travel.

RICHTER: Don't forget about Amtrak if you're looking to go carless or perhaps you can't find a rental car. The other thing I'll say - if you have national parks on your mind, consider looking outside the most popular national parks. There's 423 national parks, over 6,000 state parks. There is room for you. And the other tip I'll say is it's worthwhile to get an annual pass. Their annual passes start at $80. And then you can explore all of the national parks all year.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Erika Richter with the American Society of Travel Advisors, thank you very much.

RICHTER: Thank you so much for having me. Happy travels, everyone.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC) Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.