AAA Forecasts First Dip in Summer Travel in a Decade

Pa. (EYT) – 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 that as Americans return to making travel plans, they are doing so cautiously and more spur-of-the-moment.

“Americans have spent the last few months dreaming about their summer vacations,” says Bevi Powell, senior vice president, AAA East Central. “There have been some changes in booking trends this year. Travelers are booking long-weekend getaways and impromptu trips, with many loading their cars and heading to their favorite sunny destination or national park.”

Car trips reign supreme accounting for 97% of the favored mode of transportation, and are expected to see the smallest decrease in travel volume (3% year-over-year). Air travel is expected to decrease by about 74%, while rail, cruise ship and bus travel will slide by 86%.

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AAA travel experts have begun to see positive trends in travel, noting that hotel and rental car bookings have been gradually increasing since April. Also, 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.

Road Trips + Top TripkTik 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% 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, as an added benefit right now: gas prices are low.

When it comes to TripTik destination searches nationwide, 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

For travelers looking to plan their Great American Road Trip, AAA recommends visiting https://www.aaa.com/roadtrips/.

Hotels

AAA Travel data shows that when top destinations, including Las Vegas, Orlando and NYC, were shut-down earlier in the year, bookings shifted to smaller destinations. As those top destinations begin to open, they are once again the top hotel destinations, though advance bookings in general are nearly 25% shorter than this time last year. Here are the top 10 most popular hotel destinations since mid-March based on AAA Travel bookings:

1. Las Vegas
2. Orlando
3. San Diego
4. New York City
5. Chicago
6. Nashville
7. Atlanta
8. Houston
9. Portland
10. San Antonio

For road trips that require an overnight stay, look for hotels with a AAA Diamond designation. For extra confidence, look for Diamond hotels that display a AAA Inspector’s Best Of Housekeeping badge. Property inspections were completed prior to February. However, to meet the criteria for this award, these hotels have received top marks for housekeeping excellence for two consecutive inspections and are free of AAA member complaints.

Prior to your hotel stay, AAA recommends calling ahead to ensure your hotel is still open and asking about any restrictions or changes to the check-in process. It’s likely that the hotel has reduced the number of times guests have face-to-face interactions with other guests and hotel staff. When you check into your room, remember to wipe down surfaces with disinfecting wipes. Pay special attention to surfaces such as light switches, door knobs, faucets and remote controls.

Know Before You Go

No matter how a traveler gets to their final destination, AAA recommends considering these points before you go:

  • 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.
  • Visit AAA’s Covid-19 Travel Restrictions Map at TripTik.AAA.com for the latest state and local travel restrictions.
  • Pack face coverings, gloves and cleaning supplies – like disinfecting wipes, hand sanitizer – and a thermometer.
  • Take all necessary travel documentation, including health insurance cards.

About the Survey:

Because of the pandemic’s impacts on travel, AAA did not release Memorial or Independence Day travel forecasts. AAA’s Q3 projections are based on economic forecasting and research by IHS Markit, a London-based business information provider. For the purposes of this forecast, the summer travel period is defined as July 1 through September 30. In cooperation with AAA, IHS Markit developed a unique methodology to forecast actual domestic travel volumes, using macroeconomic drivers such as employment; output; household net worth; asset prices including stock indices; interest rates; housing market indicators and variables related to travel and tourism, including prices of gasoline, airline travel and hotel stays. The complete AAA/IHS Markit forecast is available here.


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