The great American road trip will be the most popular way to travel this summer.
AAA forecasts that Americans will take 700 million trips between July and September, a drop of 15 percent compared to last year and the first decline in summer travel since 2009.
Here in the Pacific Region (AK, CA, HI, OR, WA), residents will take 107 million trips, a drop of 17 percent compared to 2019.
Car trips are the most popular way to go with a whopping 97 percent of travelers choosing to drive to their destinations. Car trips will also see the smallest decrease in travel volume of just 3 percent year-over-year. Air travel will be off by about 74 percent, while rail, cruise ship and bus travel will slide by 86 percent.
Were it not for the pandemic, AAA would be projecting 857 million trips during the third quarter, a 3.6 percent increase over last year. By this analysis, the pandemic wiped out nearly 150 million person-trips this summer.
“With travel restrictions constantly changing and social distancing recommended due to the coronavirus pandemic, it’s understandable why 97 percent of summer trips are road trips. That’s up from an average of 87 percent over the last five years,” says Marie Dodds, public affairs director for AAA Oregon/Idaho. “An added bonus is that gas prices are relatively low, about 50 to 60 cents a gallon less than last summer. This will be the cheapest summer for filling-up since 2016.”
“Summer travelers are especially interested in destinations that are fairly close to home—within a day’s drive—and most are interested in long weekend getaways instead of extended vacations,” says Doreen Loofburrow, senior vice president of travel for AAA Oregon/Idaho. “Road trips also allow travelers to make their own schedules and itineraries, pack their own food and supplies, and is usually an easy and less expensive way to travel, especially for those with small children.”
AAA has tips and advice for travelers during the coronavirus pandemic:
“The bottom line is traveling during the coronavirus pandemic requires more planning,” says Dodds. “Book your lodging and activities in advance, and plan your stops for food, gasoline and EV charging. Many national parks and attractions will limit capacity so it’s best to make arrangements for these in advance.”
Heed all official warnings and remain vigilant while traveling. Refer to the latest updates from The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and S. Department of State to help decrease the spread of COVID-19. Check the CDC’s Covid-19 data tracker, municipal and state health departments and local news for updates on coronavirus cases and continue to do so while on the road.
Check in advance on travel restrictions for each destination you plan to visit. Many states, counties, cities and countries still have travel restrictions in place. AAA has developed an interactive TripTik map with COVID-19 travel restrictions. Just click on the destination you’d like to visit for the latest information. AAA’s US & Canada COVID-19 Travel Restrictions Map at TripTik.AAA.com.
Book your lodging, camping and rental car in advance. Many providers are limiting the number of guests and/or allowing more time between guests, so availabilities will likely be reduced.
Ask about any restrictions or changes to the check-in process. Many properties have reduced face-to-face interactions with guests.
Check on the cleaning standards. Many hotels, campgrounds, parks and rental car companies offer enhanced cleaning policies. For extra confidence, look for Diamond hotels that display a AAA Inspector’s Best Of Housekeeping badge. Oregon has 181 properties from Albany to Yachats that are honored. Here’s the complete list of Oregon properties.
When you check into your room, wipe down commonly touched surfaces with disinfectant. Pay special attention to light switches, door knobs, faucets, refrigerator handles, and remote controls.
Check with any museums, parks, attractions, etc. you want to visit and consider purchasing tickets in advance. Many will have reduced operating hours and limit the number of visitors at a time. Many also require face masks.
Bring snacks, beverages and non-perishable foods with you. Grocery stores and restaurants may have limited hours. Check to see if restaurants are open, and if they offer dine-in service, take-out and/or delivery. Pack picnic supplies and look for scenic stops where you can enjoy the outdoors while social distancing.
Pack hygiene, cleaning and disinfecting products such as face masks, hand sanitizer, soap, wipes, sprays, paper towels, tissues, toilet paper, gloves, etc. as these items may be difficult to purchase while you’re on the road.
Pay with a credit card instead of cash and use a wipe or sanitizing spray to disinfect your credit card before putting it away.
Take all necessary travel documentation, including health insurance cards.
Consider working with a travel professional to help plan your trip. They can help you sort through all of the pandemic-related restrictions and help you get the biggest bang for your vacation dollars.
Get your car road-trip ready. Breakdowns are always a hassle, and you don’t want to be stranded during the coronavirus pandemic. Find a trusted mechanic nearby at AAA.com/repair.
Top Summer Destinations
Oregon coast: Lincoln City / Seaside / Newport / Florence / Cannon Beach
Northern California: Redding / Eureka / Sacramento
Yellowstone National Park and surrounding areas including Wyoming and Montana
Utah: Ogden / Moab
Colorado: Grand Junction / Colorado Springs
Washington: Seattle, Walla Walla
National parks, state parks and locations that provide an escape from crowds are also of great interest.
AAA sees growing interest in future vacations
For those who still aren’t quite ready to travel, this is an excellent time to book trips for the future.
“Many providers want to lure travelers back and are offering some incredible bargains on trips later this year and into 2021 and beyond. So if you have a bucket-list trip in mind, now’s a great time to make plans. And with many travel providers easing or waiving cancellation policies, you’ll be able to change your plans if necessary. Just be sure to read all the fine print,” says Loofburrow.