ORLANDO, Fla. — This summer, AAA forecasts Americans will take 700 million trips based on economic indicators and state reopenings. That number is down nearly 15 percent 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 Paula Twidale, AAA’s senior vice president of Travel. “When they do venture out, travelers will take to the road with 683 million car trips to satisfy their wanderlust.”
Car trips are expected to account for 97 percent of summer travel transportation—up from an average of 87 percent over the last five years—and are also forecast to see the smallest decrease in travel volume (3 percent year-over-year). AAA noted that road trips allow travelers to make their own schedule and customize stops based on comfort level and interests; it’s an easy and less expensive way to travel for families, especially those with young children; and gas prices remain low. Air travel is expected to be off by about 74 percent, while rail, cruise ship, and bus travel will likely slide by 86 percent.
Were it not for the pandemic, AAA would be projecting 857 million trips during the third quarter—a 3.6 percent increase over last year. By this analysis, the pandemic wiped out nearly 150 million person-trips this summer.
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 seven days before departure—a sign that people are arranging last-minute trips—is significantly higher than normal.
Leading Summer Travel Destinations
AAA also released insights on its TripTik destination searches. Prominent cities that typically draw large crowds are not as popular this summer. Based on TripTik.AAA.com searches from March 15 through June 14, 2020, Orlando, Fla., dropped from the top-searched city destination to number eight while Denver made the biggest climb from number 10 to number one. Following Denver, Las Vegas, Los Angeles, Seattle, Phoenix, Portland, Ore., Myrtle Beach, S.C., Orlando, Fla., San Diego, and Nashville were the most-searched city destinations, respectively.