If you’re planning a trip Labor Day weekend, you’re not alone.
The number of Ohioans traveling for the holiday is projected to rise 8.2 percent compared to last year, according to AAA Ohio.
The likely reason for this year’s expected spike is the nation’s strong economy, including low unemployment and a consumer confidence rate that hit near an 18-year high this month, said Kimberly Schwind, AAA Ohio spokeswoman.
It also follows national travel increases around Memorial Day and the Fourth of July, she said.
"It’s appropriate to finish off a busy summer travel season with a busy Labor Day," Schwind said.
The Ohio Department of Transportation also is busy across the state, with about 550 projects on roads and bridges currently underway, which will add to the congestion. They projects are all part of a $2.3 billion investment to update the state’s infrastructure, ODOT spokesman Matt Bruning said.
And when you combine the near-record spending on construction with increased holiday travel — about 85 percent of Labor Day weekend travelers opt to drive to their destination, according to AAA data — there will be increased bottlenecks, Bruning said.
Among the major construction projects to be mindful of are on Interstate 75 near Findlay, on I-71 just south of Downtown Columbus, on I-271 in Cuyahoga County and on I-76 near Akron, he said.
While ODOT tries to shrink the size of work zones and lane restrictions over the long holiday weekend to limit traffic, Bruning advised travelers to plan ahead. He said one way to be proactive is to use ohgo.com to locate construction zones and get real-time updates on crashes and other closures.
"Just prepare," he said. "Do some planning. Do some homework before you leave the house. That ounce of preparation can save you a lot of waiting in traffic."
Those driving, however, will pay a premium at the pump because gas prices are at their highest point across the U.S. since 2014, according to AAA. Ohio saw the largest price increase in the country this week, with a 10-cent jump from last week to a statewide average of $2.84 per gallon of regular unleaded gas, which mirrors the national figure.
Last year around Labor Day, gas prices nationwide spiked to their highest point after Hurricane Harvey led to closures of refineries and pipelines, according to AAA.
While it’s possible gas prices might tick up a few more cents as the weekend approaches, it isn’t likely "to deter travelers," Schwind said.
Thursday and Friday afternoon tend to be when most Labor Day travelers leave for their destination, Schwind said. Given that, any events in Columbus this weekend such as the home Ohio State football game against Oregon State shouldn’t be impacted by holiday travel, Bruning said.
"Gameday traffic is down to a science," he said.
Based on booking data, AAA said travelers are projected to spend 6.2 percent more on their Labor Day trips in 2018 than 2017. Popular destinations this weekend are similar to years past, such as Cedar Point in Sandusky and Kings Island in Cincinnati, Schwind said.
Top spots outside Ohio include Nashville and Gatlinburg, Tennessee; Washington, D.C.; Chicago; and Virginia Beach, Virginia, according to AAA.
No matter where you’re going, thought, the best way to ensure a successful trip is by planning ahead, Schwind said.
"You don’t want any headaches on your holiday trip so planning is key," she said.