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Despite CDC's renewal of public transit mask mandate, local travel experiencing a boom

Gas prices, mask mandates loom over summer travel season
Travelers wait for baggage at Indianapolis Airport
Posted at 10:45 PM, Apr 13, 2022

INDIANAPOLIS — The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention extended the travel mask mandate on Wednesday, meaning it will continue for at least the next 15 days — through May 3 — while the agency evaluates the situation.

Despite this, travel is soaring throughout the country, and in the Circle City.

"At this point where we are, in our lives and the world, travel is necessary to keep our sanity," said Caitlin O'Brien.

O'Brien flew to Indianapolis to visit family on Wednesday. It was her first time on an airplane since 2019, and the first-ever for her son, Chase.

This is not O'Brien's only planned trip. She has two planned over the summer, despite the pandemic-era travel headaches and rising fares. And she's not the only one.

"You gotta get away. You stay around town, or something like that, it's not the same as getting away. I'd rather take the trip," said Hoosier Jeff Williams while he waited to pick up his girlfriend at the Indianapolis International Airport.

The CDC still has international travel restrictions in place, including a requirement for anyone entering the country to produce a negative COVID test taken within 24 hours of travel.

Experts say a lot of people feel that traveling is worth the extra hurdles.

Delta Airlines announced that March 2022 was the first profitable month since the pandemic started, calling the gains a rebound.

The trend is also visible in Central Indiana. Michael Grueninger, president of Greuninger Travel Group, said his local clients are excited to get out after two years of being pent up at home.

"I think that two years of being at home — nice bonding with the family. But the kids are ready to get out, the parents are ready to get out, and people are still traveling," he said.

Greuninger said that airfares are increasing, COVID travel restrictions are still difficult to navigate, and airlines are still plagued by staffing issues that can slow down the whole travel experience.

But that's not slowing people down. In fact, Expedia reports that 68% of people they polled are planning to go all-out for their next trip.

"A lot of people, even if you did travel over the last few years, it was domestically. Now a lot of families and travelers and guests are going overseas," said Greuninger.

Over the last two years, Grueninger has seen travelers learn to adapt to ever-changing rules and fluid situations.

"People are a lot more flexible now than they ever have been," he said.

Grueninger added that travel insurance and travel advisors are more popular these days, due to their usefulness in navigating today's travel troubles. He recommends that travelers have a backup plan and be ready to roll with the punches because sometimes the unplanned moments can be the most magical.

"Those are the memories you're going to bring back of a small little restaurant, the museum you went to, the people that you met on the street."

For O'Brien, the idea of showing the world to her son is worth every headache.

"We're just thirsty for human interaction, and human contact, and experiencing things. Chase is a COVID baby. I want him to go out and see the world, and if that means we have to spend a little more, so be it. Even if we cry about it later," she said.