COLUMBUS — With Independence Day right around the corner, AAA is forecasting Americans will take 700 million trips this summer. That number is down nearly 15 percent compared to last July through September and is the first decline in summer travel since 2009. Still, AAA booking trends show travelers are making 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 Paula Twidale, AAA’s senior vice president of Travel. “When they do venture out, travelers will take to the road with 683 million car trips to satisfy their wanderlust.”
Last year, AAA predicted record Independence Day travel numbers. Were it not for the pandemic, AAA would expect 857 million trips during the third quarter of this year, a 3.6% increase over last summer. By this analysis, the pandemic wiped out nearly 150 million person-trips just during the summer.
Road Trips Reign Supreme:
Road trips will account for 97 percent of summer travel, and will see the smallest decrease in travel volume of just 3% year-over-year. AAA forecasts a 74 percent decrease in air travel and an 86percent decrease in rail, cruise ship and bus travel compared to last 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.
“Our booking data shows that some Americans are ready to start traveling,” said Jeremy Marshall, vice president, Travel for AAA Ohio Auto Club. “U.S. hotel occupancy rates climbed more than 40 percent during the first week of June. For international trips, we are starting to see deep discounts for resorts in the Caribbean and Mexico, which has led to new bookings in these tropical destinations.”
Air travel has been slower to rebound than domestic road-based travel. The share of travelers making plans 48 hours to seven days before departure is significantly higher than normal, a sign that people are arranging more last-minute trips.
While some may be hesitant to travel this year, many are planning ahead for the future. AAA Ohio cruise and tour bookings for 2021 are up more than 80% compared to bookings for 2020 at this time last year.
Road Trips + Top Trip Tik Destinations:
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 percent over the last five years.
Many summer travelers are looking for outdoor activities where they can continue to socially distance. Camping and close-to-home Ohio destinations are popular this year. AAA has also seen an increase in RV rentals.
Some travelers are also starting to venture outside of Ohio. Based on recent AAA TripTik requests for Independence Day weekend, the top five out-of-state locations Ohioans are planning on visiting include: Florida Panhandle, Hilton Head Island, S.C., Myrtle Beach, S.C., Outer Banks, N.C., Tampa, Florida.
As COVID-19 cases rise in some of these popular destinations, road trippers should always stay informed and assess the risks before traveling. Regardless of the destination, AAA recommends travelers:
Know the cancellation policy at the location you’re visiting prior to booking.
Check the CDC’s Covid-19 data tracker, municipal and state health departments and local news for updates on COVID-19 cases and continue to do so while on the road.
Plan your route. Visit AAA’s Covid-19 Travel Restrictions Map at TripTik.AAA.com for the latest state and local travel restrictions.
Pack face coverings, gloves, a thermometer and cleaning supplies, like disinfecting wipes, hand sanitizer.
Take all necessary travel documentation, including health insurance cards.
“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 Twidale.
AAA expects gas prices to average near $2.25/gallon nationally for the third quarter of 2020, a 15 percent decline from last summer. This will be the cheapest summer for filling up since 2016.
When at the pump, AAA recommends wearing disposable gloves or using a plastic bag to avoid touching the pump handle. When back in your car, be sure to clean your hands and credit card with sanitizer or wipes.