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To travel, or not to travel? Experts say be aware of these challenges for post-pandemic getaways

Not everyone is itching to hop on a plane to fly away

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — If you've been itching to getaway to a sunny beach destination, there's good news: American Airlines just opened a new nonstop route straight to Honolulu from Charlotte. The flight will take more than 10 hours from takeoff to touchdown, but it may be worth it for travelers snapping up those beach town bookings.

Flight experts like Scott Keyes from Scott's Cheap Flights say 72% of people surveyed are planning summer trips, a major increase from 37% in 2020 during the throes of the COVID-19 pandemic. And everyone seems to be looking for that ocean blue view.

"It's the beach markets that are by far the hottest," Keyes told us.

Popularity can sometimes come with a price travelers have to pay; Travelocity reports the lowball airfare for that round trip from the Queen City to the Aloha State is at $634, and the price tops out over $1,000. If you can get the lowest airfare possible, that may just be the cheapest part of your trip too; rental car shortages happened as a result of the pandemic when companies had to sell off cars last year, meaning some cars may cost you as much as $700 per day in Hawaii.

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If cost is keeping you from flying to Hawaii, you may consider a relatively shorter trip, like driving to Hilton Head in South Carolina or even Cape Cod in Massachusetts. Be warned: those destinations are all booked up for July according to vacation home site Vrbo. Keyes says if you've got summer travel on your mind, start booking now.

"Book it sooner rather than later, there are still deals to be had," he said, "but I would say time is of the essence."

Travelers ready to scratch that itch may have those options available to them, but not everyone is ready to hop on a plane just yet; mental health experts say "post-COVID re-entry anxiety" is a real thing people are experiencing despite safety measures to ensure safe flying is possible. Both vaccinated and unvaccinated patients are expressing worries about returning to more in-person activities, but there are steps you can take if you're feeling this.

Start slowly by easing into smaller-group activities at first. Then work your way into larger gatherings, and don't be afraid to use the buddy system; going through this with someone facing the same anxieties as you are can help greatly. And it's best to get that buddy quickly, because the longer you wait, the worse those anxieties may become.

Contact Lana Harris at lharris@wcnc.com and follow her on Facebook, Twitter and on Instagram.