Besides the obvious – celebrating Americans' hard-working attitudes and entrepreneurial spirit – Labor Day is a holiday that almost always sees an increased amount of travel – by air, road, and by sea. For many, the summer's unofficial swan song serves as one last hurrah before classes resume and workers return to their offices after extended vacations.
This year is proving to be no different. For instance, nearly 15.6 million Americans are expected to fly over the Labor Day weekend, according to industry trade association Airlines for America, and that's up from roughly 15 million in 2015. With gas prices averaging less than $2 per gallon in many parts of the country, the roads are also anticipated to be alive with activity.
If you'll be among the itinerant class this Labor Day, here are a few travel tips to keep in mind:
1. Follow the rules of the road
Driving defensively at this point should go without saying, but with aggressive behaviors being the leading cause of car accidents, many people still aren't getting the message. Indeed, if the trend continues, Labor Day has the potential to be the deadliest summer holiday in recent memory, according to estimates from the National Safety Council. Based on preliminary figures, fatal car crashes were up 9% through the first six months of 2016 versus the same span last year. The jump was even more significant compared to 2014 at approximately 18% more.
"Our complacency is killing us," NSC President and CEO Deborah Hersman warned in a press release. "One-hundred deaths every day should outrage us. Americans should demand change to prioritize safety actions and protect ourselves from one of the leading causes of preventable death."
2. Early bird catches the worm
Regardless of where you're going, you're almost guaranteed to get there more quickly by hitting the roads bright and early. Thanks to the power of mobile apps, we now can get an idea of precisely when the best time is. According to community-based traffic and navigation app Waze – which is available for download on iTunes – traffic peaks on Labor Day between 7 a.m. and 9 a.m., Fortune reported last year. There's a bit of a lull over the next two hours, but congestion starts to pick up again from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Waze spokesperson Carla Clunis told the periodical Labor Day weekend traffic isn't much different than what you'd typically find on any other Friday, Saturday, and Sunday. Travel experts say the best time to hit the roads is that Thursday, between 2 p.m. and 5 p.m.
3. Time for a tune-up?
Few things can make for a worse start to the Labor Day weekend than car trouble. And given that it's a period most Americans have off, you may not be able to get your car fixed if your engine breaks down. To avoid these headaches, consider taking your car into the shop so your mechanic can see what needs to be done ahead of time. An oil change may be all that's needed, but then again there may be issues that require some extra tender loving care.
4. Plan in advance
Abraham Lincoln is credited with having said, "Give me six hours to chop down a tree, and I will spend the first four sharpening the axe." In other words, you'll get a lot more out of your Labor Day weekend by preparing for it now rather than leaving it to the last minute. This goes both for what you intend to bring along with you as well as the accommodations. For example, according to Priceline.com, since New York City, Chicago, and Las Vegas are major tourist hubs, a number of four-star hotels are offering deep discounts in these cities to rent out rooms.
Wherever your travels take you as the summer fades into the sunset, may your Labor Day weekend be a safe, restful, and happy one.