For the first time in 20 years, AAA will not issue a Memorial Day travel forecast, as the accuracy of the economic data used to create the forecast has been undermined by COVID-19. The annual forecast – which estimates the number of people traveling over the holiday weekend – will return next year.
Anecdotal reports suggest fewer people will hit the road compared to years past for what is considered the unofficial start of the summer travel season.
“Last year, 43 million Americans traveled for Memorial Day Weekend – the second-highest travel volume on record since AAA began tracking holiday travel volumes in 2000,” said Paula Twidale, senior vice president, AAA Travel. “With social distancing guidelines still in practice, this holiday weekend’s travel volume is likely to set a record low.”
Memorial Day 2009 currently holds the record for the lowest travel volume at nearly 31 million travelers, according to AAA. That holiday weekend, which came toward the end of the Great Recession, 26.4 million Americans traveled by car, 2.1 million by plane and nearly 2 million by other forms of transportation (train, cruise, etc.).
AAA expects to make travel projections for the late summer and fall, assuming states ease travel restrictions and businesses reopen. Already, there are indications that Americans’ wanderlust is inspiring them to plan future vacations.
AAA.com/travel online bookings have been rising, though modestly, since mid-April, suggesting travelers’ confidence is slowly improving. When it is safe to travel, AAA predicts vacationers will have a preference for U.S destinations, mostly local and regional locations, and the great American road trip.
The expected rebound in domestic vacations aligns with trends AAA anticipated for summer 2020 pre-COVID-19. In a March AAA Travel survey, 90% of the 173 million Americans who had summer vacations on the books planned to take a U.S.-based vacation. AAA travel experts say that’s common during a presidential election year, when many travelers hold off on international travel because they want to see how the election will affect the economy or international relations. This year, the phenomenon is amplified by concerns about the pandemic.
“The saying goes that the journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step. Americans are taking that first step toward their next journey from the comfort of their home by researching vacation opportunities and talking with travel agents,” said Twidale. “We are seeing that Americans are showing a preference and inspiration to explore all that our country has to offer as soon as it is safe to travel.”
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) continues to recommend that Americans stay home and avoid nonessential travel. Americans should heed all official warnings and refer to the latest updates from the CDC and U.S. Department of State to help decrease the spread of COVID-19.
AAA expects vacationers will gravitate to road trips and family bookings including air, car, hotel and activities to destinations in the U.S., Canada and Mexico. Shortly thereafter, assuming international travel restrictions are lifted, we expect to see more demand for tropical destinations and a wider range of international travel.
For would-be travelers, AAA – one of North America’s largest travel agency networks – offers essential information and resources to guide exploring future domestic vacations. Check these out:
- AAA Travel Guides – find expert insight about where to go, how to get around, what to do and see, and what not to miss. These vacation planners offer suggested itineraries and more to help you best know how to plan a trip without missing anything along the way.
- The Great American Road Trip – check out the 11 most popular road trips in America along with travel tips and expert advice from AAA Travel Inspectors and editors that will inspire you and help you find AAA Diamond designated hotels along the way.
- Travel Agents – knowledgeable AAA travel agents can help travelers assess their options and serve as their advocate in case any changes to travel plans are needed.
- Travel Insurance – consider purchasing travel insurance to protect vacation investments. It’s important to review your options with a travel adviser as many travel protection plans exclude losses caused by an epidemic.
- AAA’s Best of Housekeeping badge – look for a hotel that has earned the AAA Inspector’s Best of Housekeeping badge. While all AAA Diamond designated properties must pass a comprehensive inspection, hotels that display the Inspector’s Best of Housekeeping badge have achieved the highest possible scores for cleanliness, surpassing expectations, demonstrating housekeeping excellence for two consecutive inspections and are free of AAA member complaints. AAA is working with its industry partners to review its inspection process and standards to ensure they reflect the COVID-19 realities of today.
- Road Trip Ready – if your car hasn’t hit the road in a while, AAA encourages you to take some simple steps to keep you and your vehicle safe. Use this car care checklist to ensure your vehicle is ready for summer travel.
For more information and to get started planning a trip, visit AAA.com/Travel.