We’ve all been hearing about the worker shortage since early in the COVID-19 pandemic, and we’ve seen it in action in our everyday lives — visiting the grocery store, the pharmacy, at school and even at our own jobs. But have you thought about how the worker shortage might affect your summer vacation plans?

Spoiler alert: it doesn’t look good.

Let’s take a closer look at the current worker shortage situation and how it might affect your summer plans across airports, rental cars, convenience stores, hotels, and entertainment.

The current worker situation

According to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, 2.8 million people have left the workforce since February 2020. Where did they go, you ask? 1.1 million women left the labor force during that span to care for their families, while the remainder can largely be attributed to COVID-related deaths, early retirements and less immigration.

Right now, there are a lot of available jobs in the U.S. — 11.4 million to be exact — and there are 6 million unemployed workers. If every unemployed person in the country found a job, we would still have nearly 5.4 million open jobs.

A huge portion of these openings are front-line, leisure and hospitality positions — you know, the ones that largely comprise every facet of summer vacations and travel. In fact, over 60% of travel and leisure jobs are currently unfilled.

And this worker shortage could affect your end-to-end travel experience.


The worker shortage is impacting every part of the airport, which can make the entire experience painfully slow. From check-in, to the TSA checkpoints, to baggage claim, to airport shops, and restaurants, fewer workers means long wait times for every part of the process. And the pilot shortage might cancel your trip altogether.

Rental cars

The semiconductor shortage has taken the majority of headlines when it comes to automotive supply chain issues, making new cars harder to find and causing the prices of used cars to rise. But the worker shortage is definitely playing its part too, especially with rental cars. There are fewer vehicles, fewer people cleaning and maintaining the cars, and fewer customer service associates to assist with rentals. All this adds up to potentially longer lines and wait times at the rental car stations.

Convenience stores

You guessed it: fewer workers could mean longer lines at convenience stores (c-stores). But c-stores have been facing labor shortages long before the pandemic, so many of them have been moving toward smarter stores that rely on technology, such as self check-out, to help expedite customer service and improve employee morale. If you choose smarter c-stores, your summer road trip fill-ups might involve fewer human interactions, but the overall experience could potentially be better.


Remember when staying at a hotel meant not lifting a finger? Sorry, but you might need new expectations. If you haven’t visited a hotel recently, let us help mentally prepare you. The worker shortage means longer lines at check-in, less frequent housekeeping visits, and reduced breakfast buffets and room service availability. And all of this comes at a new premium price.


Have you talked to anyone recently who has taken their family to visit a popular attraction or theme park? If you have, then chances are you heard horror stories about longer-than-ever lines, limited food options, crying children, and extraordinarily high prices. Why? These tourist destinations rely on a large volume of leisure and hospitality workers, and even offering higher-than-ever wages isn’t filling all the openings.

What’s next for the worker shortage?

There is some good news on the horizon for the labor shortage — and for your summer vacation. This summer, teen participation in the job market is expected to reach 9.3%, versus 2% just a few years ago. In addition, many businesses are embracing flexible schedules, offering “second-chance” hiring and providing opportunities for new and existing workers to be upskilled and reskilled on the job. These are all great endeavors for helping fill the millions of open leisure and hospitality positions, but the reality is that many of them won’t be in time to help lessen the impact on your summer vacation plans.

Our biggest tip for navigating disruptions — from airports to entertainment — caused by the worker shortage is to be patient and kind to those who are choosing to work in these fields. And for our best travel tips, check out The Official Guide to Navigating Summer Vacation Disruptions.