Packed airport, hotels and long ride-share delays await Memorial Day travelers to Miami

·4 min read

Memorial Day Weekend crowds are upon us.

The airport will be packed, the Ubers hard to find, and the hotels buzzing with visitors for a holiday weekend expected to break pandemic visitor records. According to Travelpulse data, Miami will be one of the five most popular destinations (no surprise).

Miami International Airport is anticipating a daily average of 110,000 travelers as of Thursday, making the holiday weekend the airport’s busiest since the COVID-19 pandemic began.

Memorial Day Weekend is expected to meet and exceed recent hotel occupancy levels that eclipse even pre-pandemic levels, said Rolando Aedo, chief operating officer of the Greater Miami Convention and Visitors Bureau.

There were large crowds at Miami International Airport on Thursday, May 27, 2021, with more than 660,000 passengers expected during Memorial Day Weekend.
There were large crowds at Miami International Airport on Thursday, May 27, 2021, with more than 660,000 passengers expected during Memorial Day Weekend.

The visitors bureau projects hotel occupancy county-wide will be as much as 8% higher Saturday than it was on the same day in 2019. Miami Beach hotel occupancy could be as high as 91% on Saturday, compared to 84% in 2019, according to the CVB’s projections.

MAINLAND ALTERNATIVES FOR THINGS TO DO

“We’ve gone through so many crises as a destination, and the trend has been fairly consistent,” said Aedo. “We tend to outpace other destinations in recovery.”

Getting to and from restaurants and events like the Hyundai Air & Sea Show will be a challenge as ride-share companies face driver shortages and the city’s scarce public transportation infrastructure offers little relief. Travelers should be prepared for much longer than normal waits for rides. Possible showers over the weekend could make wait times even longer.

Miami Beach is aiming to avoid some of the crowd chaos seen over spring break with new rules that limit capacity at some beaches, put license-plate checkpoints at South Beach entrances and suspend scooter, golf cart and three-wheeled autocycle rentals.

Those thinking of a last-minute local getaway might want to reconsider. Rooms at the Fontainebleau Restort in Miami Beach are going for $865 a night this weekend, and start at $425 at the recently opened Goodtime Hotel on Washington Avenue. Even downtown hotels come with a heft rate, starting at $560 at the InterContinental Hotel.

Airbnb extended its ban on parties at residences listed on its vacation rental site Thursday. Company spokesperson Ben Breit said in an email that those who violate Airbnb’s rules or Miami-Dade’s public health guidelines over the weekend are risking getting booted from the Airbnb website and legal action from the company.

The easiest place to be may be by the pool — either your own or a public one. Or you might try the greens; head golf professional at International Links Melreese Country Club Mike Stern said he expects fewer golfers than normal this weekend because so many members will be vacationing elsewhere.

For those who are venturing afield, experts recommend these tips:

Ride-sharing services: Be prepared to wait. Check for surge charges before you hit “order.” And remember that if you get frustrated and cancel, you’ll likely face a cancellation fee.

Flying: Miami-Dade County’s Aviation Department recommends travelers get to the airport at least two hours before domestic flights and three hours before international flights. To speed up the security process, the department recommends travelers check in for their flights online and wear easily removable shoes. In case you’ve forgotten, check carry-on rules at the Transportation Security Administration’s website, tsa.gov, for limits on liquids and other items.

Heading abroad: Travelers who need to get tested for COVID-19 can take advantage of Miami International’s two testing sites in Concourse E and Concourse H. The airport’s COVID-19 vaccination site will be providing free one-dose Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccines to all individuals 18 and older from May 27 to May 30, from 7 a.m. to 6 p.m.

Heading to the great outdoors? You won’t be alone. Along with cicadas that are swarming nationwide, travelers are gearing up to pack campsites, with gear sales up 86% over the same period in 2019, according to consulting firm Pattern.

Driving: While the total number of travelers is still expected to be far below 2019, it will be up about 60% over last year, forecasts the American Automobile Association, with more than 37 million people traveling more than 50 miles from home. Pack your patience and your wallet; congestion will be thick, and gas prices up.

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