25 June 2020

RoadTrip2.jpgAAA forecasts Americans will take a combined total of 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.

The findings are all part of AAA’s 2020 Summer Travel forecast, which uses key economic indicators to determine total number of trips, not actual traveler totals. AAA booking trends show Americans are making travel plans, though cautiously and without much advance planning.

"Americans will take time to travel and explore this summer, but will do so with more long weekend getaways rather than extended vacations," said Gene LaDoucer, North Dakota spokesman for AAA-The Auto Club Group.

Car trips reign supreme accounting for 97 percent of the favored mode of transportation, down just over 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% increase over last year. By this analysis, the pandemic wiped out nearly 150 million trips this summer.

Summer Trips

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 gradually increased 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, Destinations

With travel restrictions lifting but social distancing still recommended, it’s no surprise that 97 percent of summer trips are road trips. That’s up from an average of 87 percent 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.

When it comes to AAA TripTik destination searches, prominent cities that typically draw large crowds are not as popular. Orlando has dropped from the top searched city destination to number eight while Denver 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, Colo.
  2. Las Vegas, Nev.
  3. Los Angeles, Calif.
  4. Seattle, Wash.
  5. Phoenix, Ariz.
  6. Portland, Ore.
  7. Myrtle Beach, S.C.
  8. Orlando, Fla.
  9. San Diego, Calif.
  10. Nashville, Tenn.

Closer to home, North Dakota could get boost from road travelers as most attractions are open to the public and welcoming visitors. Ideas for exploring North Dakota’s wide open spaces or clean cities can be found at ND Tourism’s Welcome Back to North Dakota webpage.

To assist travelers in planning a road trip, AAA has several resources available including AAA TripTiks, COVID-19 Travel Restrictions Map, and AAA.com/roadtrips.

Gas at 16-year Lows

North Dakota drivers are currently finding the lowest summertime gas prices since 2004. The state average is hovering near $2.10 per gallon – a 20% decline from the average price per gallon last summer one year ago.

Hotel Sanitation Tips

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.

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 - The Auto Club Group

The Auto Club Group (ACG) is the second largest AAA club in North America with more than 14 million members across 14 U.S. states, the province of Quebec and two U.S. territories. ACG and its affiliates provide members with roadside assistance, insurance products, banking and financial services, travel offerings and more. ACG belongs to the national AAA federation with more than 60 million members in the United States and Canada. AAA’s mission is to protect and advance freedom of mobility and improve traffic safety. For more information, get the AAA Mobile app, visit AAA.com, and follow us on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn.