How to Have the Best Labor Day Vacation, According to Experts

Because travel has been especially difficult recently

People walk to and from the beach in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina.
Sean Rayford / Getty Images

According to a recent survey by the Vacationer, more than 50 percent of Americans will be traveling for Labor Day this year. And if the holiday weekend is anything like Memorial Day or July 4, it has the potential to be disastrous.

High gas and flight prices are straining wallets, while long waits and cancellations make air travel a gamble. To help you get the most out of your Labor Day plans, we spoke to several experts about the best way to save money and travel with minimal stress.

Choosing the right destination is the first hurdle to overcome. If you’re trying to avoid crowds, then Labor Day is the perfect time to visit an up-and-coming destination. According to Jason Epperson, host of the RV Miles and America’s National Parks podcasts, “mid-size cities have undergone a renaissance in the last decade.” So instead of heading to New York City, Chicago, or Atlanta, consider visiting Santa Fe, New Mexico; Waco, Texas; or Shreveport, Louisiana.

Trying to check some national parks off your list? “Labor Day weekend is actually a great time to visit northwestern parks like Yellowstone, Grand Teton, and Glacier,” said Epperson. These destinations tend to get cold quickly, so Labor Day is the perfect time to see these parks’ splendor.

If you’re one of the 14 percent of Americans hoping to fly for Labor Day, there’s a lot of potential for a terrible start to the holiday, but there’s still hope. To combat delays, avoid booking an afternoon or evening flight. According to Lauren Gumport, vice president at Faye Travel Insurance, a morning flight is your best bet because “delays get worse as the day goes on.”

Gumport also recommends scheduling activities for the day after you arrive. That way, a canceled flight doesn’t also cancel activities you were looking forward to. Also, unless it’s necessary, do not check a bag. Traveling carry-on-only is the best way to prevent your bags from being lost. But if you need to check a bag, the co-founders of VIP Traveler, Mark Hoenig and Josh Borenstein, recommend adding an Apple Air Tag or Tile to your packing list. If the bag gets lost, you can track it yourself instead of relying on the airport and airline that lost it.

Ultimately, if the destination is nearby, don’t fly. “If you can get to your destination in five to six hours by driving, consider this option instead as wait times at airports will be lengthy,” explained Gumport.

For the one-third of Americans hoping to drive this Labor Day, high gas prices are impacting travel plans. Prices at the pump have been falling, but they’re still high enough to make long road trips less attractive. Apps will be your friend, whether using a service like GasBuddy to find the lowest gas prices or utilizing Waze or Roadtrippers to plan the ideal route. Traveling outside of rush hour will also save you gas and time.

Some hotel brands are trying to mitigate high gas prices, too. The Graduate Nashville recently launched its Fuel to the Flame package, where guests who show a gas receipt at check-in get an equivalent credit up to $100 applied to the bill, complimentary valet parking, and snacks for the drive home.

Hotel bar with high ceilings and chandeliers at the Graduate Hotel in Nashville

Courtesy of Graduate Nashville

Hotel rates can be one of the most expensive parts of a vacation, but there are a few ways to save without staying at a dingy hotel. "A great way to save on hotels is to look outside the main tourist area. Not only are you saving money, but you're expanding your experience to other wonderful neighborhoods and places," said Christopher Falvey, co-founder of Unique NOLA Tours.

And if you don't mind doing things last minute, you can increase your savings by booking at the 11th hour. As Clem Bason, general manager of travel at Snaptravel, explained, "a hotel makes no money on an empty hotel room, so they will often cut their prices at the last minute in order to fill it."

For professionally-managed vacation home rentals, booking directly from the property manager can get you some significant savings versus booking from a platform like Vrbo or Airbnb. You can save as much as 15 percent on rates by booking directly, according to Sasha Barak, marketing manager at Enso Connect.

While there's no way to promise a stress-free vacation, these tips should at least make your trip a bit smoother.

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  1. The Vacationer. "Labor Day Travel Survey 2022 — 53%+ (137 Million to Travel), 50%+ Say Gas Prices to Affect Plans, Nearly 53% to Still Road Trip." August 8, 2022.