August 28, 2017

How to Spend Labor Day Weekend

Having lived in India between 2011-2017, Labor Day 2017 is the first Labor Day I am spending in the U.S. in a long time. Minus the fact most other countries of the world commemorate Labour Day on May 1 (rather than the first Monday of September, like in the the good 'ol U.S. of A), I am feeling a bit like a fish out of water. Here are a few things I am thinking about on my first Labor Day weekend back in the US after living the expat life abroad. 

Gas Prices 
It was reported in July that gas prices in the U.S. were at their all time lowest in 12 years. During the beginning of July we drove from New York State to Utah (about 2,500 miles one way), and were able to benefit from these jaw dropping low gas prices, in places like Cedar Rapids, Iowa and Sioux Falls, South Dakota (pictured, right). 

While gas prices do vary from region to region in the U.S., there are reports that due to Hurricane Harvey, gas prices are again on the rise. Due to the flooding in the southern parts of the U.S. where the gas refineries are, gas prices are being hit hard. In Salt Lake City, it seems the price of gas can vary up to 20 cents a gallon depending on station and locality. We were suprised when getting into the area in early July that gas prices already were about 20-30 cents more a gallon than places we were familiar with on the East Coast. Now, since Harvey, we are seeing prices range from $2.45 to $2.65, but if you go out to Park City and beyond, it can go up to $2.70. (This is for the lowest grade of gasoline, it gets more expensive with the higher grades and diesel.) 

Traffic and Driving 
Labor Day is the unofficial end of summer. In some parts of the country students have already returned to school or college, while some start back after Labor Day. We had expected the July 4th weekend traffic to be high especially since we were visiting national parks in South Dakota. While of course, South Dakota is not as densely populated as other parts of the country, we did expect more traffic than we encountered due to the fact we were driving to national parks. Apparently, according to the same article I referred to earlier in this blog, July 4th tends to be a less busy time for drivers than Labor Day. 

The one thing I am happy about in Utah is that there are few if any places to pay tolls. Unlike the East Coast, toll roads are few and far between out here. In fact, once when I was talking to to local Utah born and raised asking them about toll roads, one said to the other, "Toll roads? What is that?" That says it all!   


Where to go and what to do 
Blog author and her husband at Delicate Arch in Arches National
Park on Labor Day many years before the mad Labor Day rush.
I read on another blog that to avoid crowds and tourist traps, go to the desert instead of the beach. I can tell you living in Utah where we are all surrounded by deserts that this advice is not at all worthwhile (unless it's really off the tourist track, where rugged vehicles and adventurous spirits are much needed). I looked up staying in places like Moab (near Arches National Park - pictured, right), Zion National Park (in fact, according to the news here in Utah, Zion has been at or near capacity most of the summer) or other locales in Utah (which are all essentially deserts), and the prices are through the roof. 

Due to this, I think we will stay away from national parks because it seems the areas these parks are located in have been booked up for weeks or months in advance. And, if there are hotels available, they are extremely expensive - two or three times more expensive than on non-holiday weekends. And, for camp sites, the only ones available are the really rugged ones in BLM lands (Bureau of Land Management). Though BLM or public lands, which are widely available in Utah, are free on a first come first serve basis, they are very primitive without any facilities (yep, that means no bathrooms). 

So, since we did not plan far enough in advance, we will end up doing day hikes away from home, rather than travel to the national parks and pay through our nose for a room that otherwise may cost half or one third the price any other time of the year! 

The lesson here for us is to realize that Labor Day is a crazy time of the year for travel and to try to plan a least a month or more in advance especially if we want to go to popular locations. 

What do you plan on doing for the Labor Day weekend? What tips do you have to help others with their Labor Day weekend travel planning? 

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