(WWJ) As coronavirus restrictions ease, more Americans are looking to travel, and to do so sooner rather than later:
This summer, AAA forecasts Americans will take 700 million trips based on economic indicators and state re-openings. That number is down nearly 15% compared to last July through September and is the first decline in summer travel since 2009. AAA booking trends show Americans are making travel plans, though cautiously and more spur of the moment.“
Americans will get out and explore this summer though they’re taking a ‘wait and see approach’ when it comes to booking and are likely to book more long weekend getaways than extended vacations,” said Adrienne Woodland, spokesperson, AAA-The Auto Club Group. “When they do venture out, travelers will take to the road with 683 million car trips to satisfy their wanderlust.”
Car trips reign supreme accounting for 97% of the favored mode of transportation. Car trips will also see the smallest decrease in travel volume of just 3% year-over-year. Air travel will be off by about 74%, while rail, cruise ship and bus travel will slide by 86%. Were it not for the pandemic, AAA would be projecting 857 million trips during the third quarter, a 3.6% increase over last year. By this analysis, the pandemic wiped out nearly 150 million person-trips this summer.
AAA travel experts have begun to see positive trends in travel, noting that hotel and rental car bookings have been gradually increasing since April. Air travel has been slower to rebound. The share of travelers making plans 48 hours to 7 days before departure – a sign that people are arranging last-minute trips – is significantly higher than normal.
With travel restrictions lifting but social distancing still recommended, it’s no surprise that 97% of summer trips are road trips. That’s up from an average of 87% over the last five years. Road trips allow travelers to make their own schedule and customize stops based on comfort level and interests. For families, especially those with small children, it is an easy and less expensive way to travel. And an added benefit right now - gas prices remain low.
Woodland says there is a lot to keep in mind these days if you're thinking about a trip. You need to make sure you have the latest information, particularity regarding what's open where.
"Check with the CDC's COVID-19 data tracker, municipal and state health departments while you're on the road," Woodland told WWJ Newsradio 950. "Visit AAA's COIVD-19 travel restrictions map, and that will give you the latest date and local travel restrictions. And definitely pack face coverings, gloves and cleaning supplies."
If you could use some planning help, road trippers can use a AAA TripTik (Yes! They still do those!), which now include COVID-19 Travel Restriction updates. Check it out here.
“Beyond mapping your route in advance, it is important to book hotels and plan out gas and food stops. Also, keep in mind that some national parks and attractions have capacity limits, so if there is a must-do activity on your trip, you'll want to make arrangements for these in advance,” added Woodland.
When it comes to TripTik destination searches, prominent cities that typically draw large crowds are not as popular. Orlando, FL has dropped from the top searched city destination to number eight while Denver, CO makes the biggest climb from number 10 to number one: (Data based on TripTik.AAA.com searches from March 15 – June 14, 2020)
1. Denver, CO
2. Las Vegas, NV
3. Los Angeles, CA
4. Seattle, WA
5. Phoenix, AZ
6. Portland, OR
7. Myrtle Beach, SC
8. Orlando, FL
9. San Diego, CA
10. Nashville, TN
INRIX, in collaboration with AAA, analyzed the top 20 metropolitan areas and all states to inform travelers of the chances they will run into traffic when they travel. While the top 20 metro areas will remain below typical traffic congestion, a number of states could expect to see traffic congestion rise to normal levels – but still be below usual summer traffic patterns.
Said Bob Pishue, a transportation analyst at INRIX.“While the amount people drive is still low for this time of year, we know millions will be taking road trips in the months ahead. The good news is, the congestion they will encounter is nowhere near what we typically see in a summer."