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Vacationers, pack extra patience

Traveling this summer will try your patience and, in some cases, squeeze your wallet. As fears about the economy and employment ease, more folks are getting away for vacation. Planes are jammed full. Airfares have skyrocketed from last year's bargain-basement levels. But you can still grab a deal on hotels, and gas prices shouldn't bust your budget. Have fun out there.

Expect crowds

After two years of skipping vacations or staying close to home, more Americans are ready to hit the road or take to the skies. An estimated 2.2 million passengers will fly on U.S. airlines each day this summer, up 1 percent from the summer of 2009, says the Air Transport Association. AAA predicted 5.4 percent more people would travel over Memorial Day weekend, a trend expected to last all summer.

Packed planes

Increased demand for tickets largely won't be matched by additional flights. The percentage of seats filled could reach 85 percent, meaning there won't be an empty seat on many flights. Room for carry-on bags will be tight. But with airlines flying fewer planes, more flights are running on time.

Higher fares

Prices for June through August are 24 percent higher than a year ago, says the fare-tracking website Bing Travel, a big change from last year's bargains. Many airlines are adding "peak travel'' surcharges of $10 to $30 each way on most days between June 10 and Aug. 22, according to an analysis by FareCompare.com.

Gas prices

Not as cheap as last summer but below $3 a gallon and headed in the right direction. Prices could continue to drop through Labor Day, thanks to an ample supply of oil, say travel and oil analysts.

Hotel deals

Business is picking up, but hotels still have too many empty rooms to raise rates. The average daily rate for U.S. hotels will drop 2 percent from last summer to $95.16, according to Smith Travel Research.

Vacationers, pack extra patience 06/06/10 [Last modified: Thursday, June 10, 2010 5:56pm]

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