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,” a news release said.
AAA said the annual forecast, which estimates the number of people traveling over the holiday weekend, will return in 2021.
The AAA news release said that 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,” Paula Twidale, senior vice president, AAA Travel, said in the news release.
“With social distancing guidelines still in practice, this holiday weekend’s travel volume is likely to set a record low,” Twidale said.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention 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,” the AAA release said.
2009 PREVIOUS 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 including trains.
AAA “expects to make travel projections for the late summer and fall, assuming states ease travel restrictions and businesses reopen,” the release said.
AAA research shows there are already “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 February AAA Travel survey, 90 percent 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.
TRAVEL PLANNING CONTINUES
“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,” Twidale said. “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.”
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,” the release said.
For would-be travelers, AAA offers information and resources to guide exploring future domestic vacations. For more information and to get started planning a trip, visit AAA.com/Travel.
AAA encourages drivers to take steps to keep safe. A car care checklist to ensure a vehicle is ready for summer travel can be found at: https://www.aaa.com/autorepair/articles/prepare-your-car-for-summer-travel.