Labor Day Could Actually Be the Start of Travel Season This Year

Stretch season. Flexcation. Tumbleweed Tuesday. We explain all the new fall travel terms.

Labor Day Could Actually Be the Start of Travel Season This Year
Alex Bertha/Unsplash

Kristen Jarnagin, president and chief executive of tourism agency Discover Long Island, recently said to The New York Times, “There’s a term out here, Tumbleweed Tuesday, when everyone leaves after Labor Day. We don’t anticipate experiencing that this year.” That confidence, which is echoed throughout the travel industry, comes in part from a surprisingly strong Labor Day Weekend.

The TSA reported 968,673 people moving through checkpoints this past Friday. A year ago, that figure stood at 2.2 million (putting current domestic air travel at about 45% of its usual clip) but this still marks the first time since March 17 that more than 900,000 passengers were screened in a single day. (On April 14, the number of checkpoint travelers cratered to an unthinkable 87,534, which was 0.03% of its figure exactly a year before.) The uptick in air travel coincides with a renewed willingness from Americans to pull off road trips.

Gas prices are low, and for many the risk of boarding an airplane or train is high. So the draw of finally getting to leave the house, after a summer that never truly arrived, and to pull it off within the confines of a family car, is fueling a road travel revival. Jarnagin and other tourism board executives are counting on a delayed travel season, as people make their first trips of the year in September and October this year, instead of the usual May or June.

Autumn travel is the ace in the hole here. It could lead to a so-called “stretch season,” with Labor Day as the official kick-off, as opposed to the unofficial conclusion to days away from the office. That’s mainly because there still isn’t any office to go back to for so many workers. Destinations that generally rely on summer travel, but are accustomed to receiving yearly fall visitors, too — think The Hamptons, Lake Michigan, Rhode Island, Upstate New York — have scrambled to go all in on fall. Many of their premier properties are now selling “Work From Hotel” packages, emphasizing reliable wifi and offering discounts for couples, families or even students looking to stay an extended period of time.

It’ll put a bit more pressure on a season usually kept somewhat casual in the travel sector — leaf-peeping, college homecoming, early skiing — but with lockdowns ending and billions to make up in revenue, you can’t exactly blame the hosts or travelers for wanting to get things going again.


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