Kara Hitchens
Senior Specialist, Public and Government Affairs, OH
O: (937) 224-2817
C: (937) 558-8427
khitchens@aaa-alliedgroup.com

TOLEDO, OH - 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 Cindy Russeau, AAA spokeswoman. “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.

Summer Travel Trends 2019 vs. 2020

 

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 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.

Road Trips + Top TripTik 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 an added benefit right now - gas prices remain low. 

Road Trips begin at AAA. Visit any AAA retail location where Maps and TripTiks and other curbside services are available; Road trippers can also plan their travel in advance with our travel experts and by using AAA TripTik – a tradition for guiding road trippers with paper and digital maps that 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,” added Russeau.

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

For travelers looking to plan their Great American Road Trip, AAA wants to get you ready to hit the road with a special sweepstakes contest. Members and non-members alike who are 20 years or older can enter to win exciting prizes such as a travel mug and AAA Roadside Safety Kit to a $1,000 Best Western Hotel gift card and $500 Shell gift card. The sweepstakes is open to legal residents of CT, DE, IN, KS, KY, MD, NJ, OH, OK, PA, SD, VA, WV and DC who reside within a AAA Club Alliance Territory. Travelers can visit www.aaa.com/roadtrip and submit one entry per person per day until July 15, 2020.

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

Top 20 Metropolitan Areas Traffic Congestion Forecast

No metro area in the top 20 by population are in the upper third of VMT recovery.

 

 

Lower Third

 

Middle Third

 

Boston, MA

 

Dallas, TX

 

Baltimore, MD

 

Denver, CO

 

Chicago, IL

 

Minneapolis-St. Paul, MN

 

Detroit, MI

 

St. Louis, MO

 

Los Angeles, CA

 

Houston, TX

 

Miami, FL

 

Atlanta, GA

 

New York, NY

 

 

 

Philadelphia, PA

 

 

 

Phoenix, AZ

 

 

 

San Diego, CA

 

 

 

San Francisco, CA

 

 

 

Seattle, WA

 

 

 

Tampa, FL

 

 

 

Washington, D.C.

 

 

 

 

State Traffic Congestion Forecast

 

 

Lower Third

 

Middle Third

 

Upper Third

 

Arizona

 

Alabama

 

Alaska

 

California

 

Colorado

 

Arkansas

 

Connecticut

 

Delaware

 

Idaho

 

Florida

 

Georgia

 

Iowa

 

Hawaii

 

Indiana

 

Kansas

 

Illinois

 

Kentucky

 

Missouri

 

Louisiana

 

Maine

 

Montana

 

Maryland

 

Michigan

 

Nebraska

 

Massachusetts

 

Minnesota

 

North Dakota

 

Nevada

 

Mississippi

 

Oklahoma

 

New Jersey

 

New Hampshire

 

South Carolina

 

New York

 

New Mexico

 

South Dakota

 

Pennsylvania

 

North Carolina

 

Tennessee

 

Rhode Island

 

Ohio

 

Utah

 

Texas

 

Oregon

 

West Virginia

 

Vermont

 

Virginia

 

Wisconsin

 

Washington

 

 

 

Wyoming

 

 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.

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,” said Russeau. “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.

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.
  • Take all necessary travel documentation, including health insurance cards.
  • Prepare Your Vehicle Due to stay at home orders, many vehicles may have not been driven in months. AAA urges travelers to take their vehicles to a trusted repair facility to perform any needed maintenance such as battery and fluid checks before heading out on a road trip. Be prepared for emergencies with a mobile phone and car charger, a flashlight with extra batteries, a first-aid kit, a basic toolkit, and drinking water and snacks for all passengers. Families can also have puzzles, a charged iPad and books for the kids to keep them entertained while in the car.
  • Check Your AAA Membership—Make sure your AAA membership is up to date so you have the peace of mind if you have car troubles while you are on your trip.
  • Additional savings: Those planning to travel on the Ohio Turnpike, can save time and money by using the E-ZPass program. Drivers can visit one of six AAA locations across Northwest Ohio to purchase an E-ZPass Transponder. Travelers can save an average of 30 percent on their Ohio Turnpike toll with E-ZPass.

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.

### 

AAA provides automotive, travel, and insurance services to 58 million members nationwide and more than three million members in Ohio.  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.

 

Related Articles

TEDx Wilmington Salon

Who's in the Driver's Seat? The Transformation of Transportation

On Tuesday, October 17, 2017, AAA and TEDx Wilmington held the first TEDx Salon dedicated to ideas worth spreading in transportation.

This event had:

  • 12 live talks given by 13 speakers
  • 368 people in attendance at the live event
  • More than 7,500 viewed the event online through Livestream, viewing events, and on the AAA Associate network
  • Online viewers came from all 50 states and approximately 30 countries around the world

View a slideshow from the event

This TEDx WilmingtonSalon was organized in partnership with AAA

public affairs

Keeping Member's interests at the forefront

Contacts by region

fuel price finder

Find the lowest gas price in your area

Find prices

gas information

Tools, tips and other resources

learn more

Videos

Local news stories & information

Watch now