Trends show travelers are eager, but anxious to explore, booking last-minute trips
CHARLOTTE, N.C. (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 last July through September and is the first decline in summer travel since 2009.
“Though cautiously and more spontaneous, AAA booking trends show that Americans are in fact still making travel plans for this summer,” said Tiffany Wright, AAA spokesperson – The Auto Club Group in the Carolinas. “When they do start to get out and explore, travelers will hit the roads to take on 683 million road trips.”
Car trips reign supreme accounting for 97% of the favored mode of transportation. 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||YOY Difference|
|Rail, Cruise, Other||64.3M||9.3M||-85.5%|
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 and 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 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.
When it comes to TripTik destination searches, prominent cities that typically draw large crowds are not as popular. Orlando, Florida has dropped from the top searched city destination to number eight while Denver, Colorado makes the biggest climb from number 10 to number one: (Data based on TripTik.AAA.com searches from March 15 – June 14, 2020)
- Denver, CO
- Las Vegas, NV
- Los Angeles, CA
- Seattle, WA
- Phoenix, AZ
- Portland, OR
- Myrtle Beach, SC
- Orlando, FL
- San Diego, CA
- Nashville, TN
According to AAA Travel in the Carolinas, here are the top 5 most popular Cruise and Tour destinations booked for summer 2020 travel:
And here are the top 5 most popular Driving Routes requested:
- Myrtle Beach, South Carolina
- Denver, Colorado
- Dallas, Texas
- Asheville, North Carolina
- Williamsburg, Virginia
For travelers looking to plan their Great American Road Trip, AAA recommends visiting https://www.aaa.com/roadtrips/.
Road Trips and 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.
According to INRIX, the chances that North Carolinians are likely to run into “normal” traffic congestion while traveling is below 50% – whereas South Carolinians are more likely than not to run into “normal” traffic congestion while traveling.
Summer Gas Prices at 17-year Lows
Carolinians can expect to find the lowest summertime gas prices since 2003. Demand is still down nearly 25% compared to last year and while North Carolina’s state average is just above $2 per gallon at $2.04, South Carolina’s state average is still lower at $1.92 per gallon.
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.
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:
- Las Vegas
- San Diego
- New York City
- 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.
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.
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.
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.