Amy Parmenter
Public Affairs Manager, CT
O: (860) 570-4319
C: (860) 965-6161
aparmenter@AAA-AlliedGroup.com

AAA: Americans Will Take 700 Million Trips this Summer

The Great American Road Trip will Rule

Airlines expected to see 74% decrease in Vacation Travelers 

Release Highlights:

  • Summer trips projected to be down 15% compared to 2019
  • Cruise/Rail travel down 86%, Airline travel down 74%, Car trips down 3%
  • AAA interactive map providing Covid-19 travel restrictions in every state
  • Road Trips will account for 97% of summer trips
  • Travelers making cautious, last minute bookings 7 days to 48 hours ahead of trip
  • Travelers taking shorter trips like long weekends rather than extended vacations
  • AAA sees growing demand for 2021 cruise departures

HARTFORD, CT (June 25, 2020) – 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 the same period last year - 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,” says Amy Parmenter, spokesperson for AAA in Greater Hartford. “When venturing out, travelers will take to the road with 683 million car trips which are likely to help relieve cabin fever and satisfy pent up demand.”

This summer is expected to see the return of the Great American Road Trip as cars will reign supreme as the favored mode of transportation, accounting for 97% of vacations. Car trips will also see the smallest decrease in travel volume of just 3% year-over-year. 

For travelers looking to plan their Great American Road Trip, AAA recommends visiting

AAA.com/roadtrip for inspiration, to explore destinations and to plan the perfect route for their next adventure.

“The great American road trip is still one of the best ways to explore stateside destinations while maintaining a sense of safety and control,” says Parmenter. “Regardless of where you’re headed, planning ahead ensures your travel experience will be both safe and enjoyable.”

AAA projects 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.

 

July 1 – Sept 30, 2019

total volume

July 1 – Sept 30, 2020 total volume forecast

YOY Difference

Automobile

706M

683M

-3.3%

Air

57.9M

15.1M

-73.9%

Rail, Cruise, Other

64.3M

9.3M

-85.5%

Total

857M

707M

-14.6%


AAA travel experts have started 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.

Road Trips + Top TripTik Destinations

With travel restrictions lifting but social distancing still recommended, it’s no surprise that 97% of summer trips are expected to be 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.

This summer, road trippers should plan their travel in advance using AAA TripTik – a tradition that has guided generations of road trippers with paper and digital maps. Plus, it now includes COVID-19 Travel Restriction updates.

“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,” Parmenter says.

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

National Gas Price Average

AAA expects the national gas price to average near $2.25/gallon for the third quarter of 2020, which will be a 15% decline from the $2.66 average seen last summer. This will be the cheapest summer for filling-up since 2016. The average price for a gallon of gas across Connecticut right now is $2.15 – 68 cents less than last year on this date.

When at the pump, AAA recommends wearing disposable gloves or using a plastic sandwich bag to avoid touching the pump handle. When back in your car, be sure to clean your hands with sanitizer or wipes.

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. 

“In light of COVID-19, AAA is revising the inspection process used in its Diamonds Program,” says Paula Twidale, AAA’s senior vice president of Travel. “The new criteria will reflect best practices for protecting the health of hotel guests, employees and AAA inspectors.”

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. 

Road Trips & Traffic across the Country

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.

“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,” says Bob Pishue, a transportation analyst at INRIX. 

Using the latest vehicle miles traveled (VMT) data available, INRIX has classified three categories to analyze traffic:

  • Lower: Probably not going to run into “normal” traffic congestion while traveling
  • Middle: Below 50% chance to run into “normal” traffic congestion while traveling
  • Upper: More likely than not to run into “normal” traffic congestion while traveling

 

Other Modes of Transportation

Other modes of transportation – cruises, buses and rail – have seen the most dramatic drop in travel volume. Most cruise lines have suspended all departures until at least August 1, with only limited offerings after that. AAA, however, has noted growing demand for departures in 2021.

Rail travel offers a unique way to see the country, and AAA offers a number of itineraries to explore iconic cities as well as the National Parks and beyond at AAA.com/vacations.

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.

Methodology:

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.

 About AAA:

AAA provides automotive, travel, and insurance services to 60 million members nationwide and more than one million members in Connecticut.  AAA advocates for the safety and mobility of its members and has been committed to outstanding road service for more than 100 years.  AAA is a non-stock, non-profit corporation working on behalf of motorists, who can now map a route, find local gas prices, discover discounts, book a hotel, and track their roadside assistance service with the AAA Mobile app (AAA.com/mobile) for iPhone, iPad and Android.  For more information, visit www.AAA.com.

About INRIX:

INRIX is the global leader in connected car services and transportation analytics. Leveraging big data and the cloud, INRIX delivers comprehensive services and solutions to help move people, cities and businesses forward. Our partners are automakers, governments, mobile operators, developers, advertisers, as well as enterprises large and small.

Follow us on Twitter: @AAAHartfordNews

CT Mailing Address:
815 Farmington Avenue
West Hartford, CT 06119

AAA provides automotive, travel and insurance services to 58 million members nationwide and more than one million members in Connecticut.  AAA advocates for the safety and mobility of its members and has been committed to outstanding road service for more than 100 years. The not-for-profit, fully tax-paying member organization works on behalf of motorists, who can now map a route, find local gas prices, discover discounts, book a hotel and track their roadside assistance service with the AAA Mobile app for iPhone, iPad and Android. For more information, visit www.aaa.com.

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