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After a year of restrictions, experts say travelers seeking blue skies should be ready for increased ticket prices

Travel experts say you'll want to budget smart if you're flying this summer and keep adhering to health guidelines.

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Last year, plane travel came to all but a halt amidst the initial outbreak of the novel coronavirus in the United States. As the nation grappled with how to face the virus down, airlines faced their own battle with fewer travelers taking to the skies.

With three vaccines currently authorized for use, and with nearly 40% of the Tar Heel State citizen's at least partially vaccinated against COVID-19, travel industry experts say there is a demand to travel again. That was the case just this past Saturday, May 1: the TSA reports 1.3 million passengers got through their gates, nearly 10 times more than the 134,000 passengers who flew at the same time in 2020.

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"With the vaccine rollout, we've seen a lot of that pent-up demand start to translate into more bookings, both for late spring and summer," said Adit Damodaran, an economist with travel service Hopper.

More recently, the European Union announced fully vaccinated Americans can now visit again. However, Damodaran notes taking to blue skies this summer will require some more green.

“We’re expecting flight prices to increase about 15% going into the summer,” he said.

Have a relative or friend in another state and want to know when they can get vaccinated? Visit NBC News' Plan Your Vaccine site to find out about each state's vaccine rollout plan. 

Also required still: masks. The TSA says the mask mandate that was set to expire next week has been extended until September 13. That begs the question: is air travel safe?

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says yes, domestic travel is safe for those who are fully vaccinated, and you don't need to get tested for COVID-19 before or after unless the destination demands it. Those seeking to fly internationally should still get tested 3-5 days after travel, but don't need testing before or a self-quarantine after. Additionally, continued use of a mask, the practice of social distancing, and regular hand washing and sanitizing should still be top of mind until more people are vaccinated and case numbers decline.

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