Now that summer is officially in full swing, are you going anywhere?

Many of our friends have postponed “big” vacations but in general, Americans are expected to be doing some traveling, this summer. And like everything else this year, time away will look different than it has in the past. To get an idea of what we in the US will be up to between July and September, AAA teamed up with IHS Markit, a world leader in critical information, analytics, and expertise. IHS looked at macroeconomic drivers such as employment, household net worth, asset prices (like stock indexes), interest rates, housing market indicators, and other factors such as the prices of gasoline, airline travel, and hotel stays to determine Americans’ likely travel plans. The research also incorporated historical travel volume estimates from DK SHIFFLET’s TRAVEL PERFORMANCE/Monitorsm. DK SHIFFLET contacts 50,000+ US households per month to gather detailed travel info.

With all that information, what was the bottom line?

Roooaaddd trip…

Based on info gathered the week of June 8, 2020, AAA anticipates that US residents will take approximately 700 million person-trips between July 1 and September 30. But while optimism was on-the-rise, travelers’ plans were more cautious and spur-of-the-moment than they have been in the past.[i]

The research also revealed that:[ii]

  • This year’s estimated person-trips represent a decline of nearly 15% from last year. After having risen at a 3.2% annual rate for the past four years, 2020’s total of 707 million trips is about 120 million trips less than 2019’s total. Estimated travel in 2020 also marks the first drop in summer travel since 2009.
  • Travelers are leaning more toward long weekend getaways than extended trips.
  • Autos rule. Share of travelers by mode broke down like this:
Travel ModeAnticipated % of 2020 Summer Travel Difference from 2019
Autos 96.5% -3.3%
Air 2.1 -73.9
Rail, Cruise, Other 1.3 -85.5
Total -14.6%
  • Road trips will be popular. At 683 million, trips in the car are anticipated to make up 97% of all US trips this summer versus an average of 87% during the past five years. And while that would be 3.3% lower than 2019, it’s only 0.4% lower than 2018.

Remember to pack snacks😊

  • Air travel volume should be around 15.1 million—accounting for about 2% of all travel volume—and roughly 74% lower than in 2019.
  • Buses, rails, and cruise ship travel is expected to come in at approximately 9.3 million, roughly 86% lower than 2019 levels. Most cruise lines have suspended departures until at least August 1, with only limited offerings after that. AAA noted, however, that there was a growing demand for 2021 departures.
  • Last-minute trips have gained popularity. The share of travelers making plans 48 hours-to-a week in advance is significantly higher than usual.
  • Positive trends have begun to emerge. According to the research, hotel and rental car bookings have been gradually increasing since April. And here’s more good news for that road trip—AAA expects the national gas price to average near $2.25/gallon for the July through September travel period—a 15% drop from last year’s $2.66/gallon, and the cheapest summer price since 2016.

The bad news…?

AAA estimates that the pandemic eliminated nearly 150 million person-trips, this year. Without COVID-19, the group would have projected a 3.6% increase over 2019 for a total of 857 million person-trips.

So, where’s everybody going?

AAA has a system called TripTik which has provided trip guidance to generations of travelers. The guidance not only shows you the most efficient route, but takes into account hotels, restaurants, local attractions, etc.—it’s designed to help you get the most out of your trip.

For those of us who remember using paper maps, you could go to your local AAA office and sit down with a representative, telling him/her where you were headed. The rep would then get out all the maps that you would need, order and number them, and highlight the best route to take—as well as all the other good stuff that would help you really enjoy your trip. You knew you were in good hands! The system has been around for more than 80 years—the first TripTik was created in 1937 and was mass produced the following year—and since some people still like good old-fashion, hold-em-in-your-hand maps, you can still get them today!

You can also get your travel information digitally, either online or on AAA’s mobile app—complete with all the hotel and restaurant info. In fact, TripTik is a wealth of information in many ways, including gleaning big-picture insights based on destination searches. Based on the searches conducted between March 15 and June 14, 2020, AAA found that this year, people were shying away from destinations that tended to draw larger crowds. For example, Orlando, FL—typically the number one search destination—fell to number eight during that period, and by contrast, Denver, CO rose from number 10 to number one in that same timeframe. The other cities that travelers searched were:

  1. Denver, CO
  2. Las Vegas, NV
  3. Los Angeles, CA
  4. Seattle, WA
  5. Phoenix, AZ
  6. Portland, OR
  7. Myrtle Beach, SC
  8. Orlando, FL
  9. San Diego, CA
  10. Nashville, TN

There’s always next year…

Sure—but maybe you’d better get ready to book your trip sooner rather than later. While almost everyone acknowledges the uncertainty that we could still have next year, some trips, hotels, and even bands and makeup artists for destination weddings are starting to fill up for 2021.

According to a recent article in The Wall Street Journal,[iii] travel agents have found that many clients are opting to postpone large international trips rather than cancel them, and that hotels, etc., are getting booked much further in advance than usual. A regional touring director who specializes in Asian, African, and South American travel said that 89% of his clients who couldn’t take their trips this year because of the pandemic rebooked the same itineraries for next year. Further, the agency is seeing new bookings in addition to the postponed trips for summer 2021. Meanwhile, the president of another agency said that they’ve rescheduled thousands of bookings for 2021 since this past January, primarily to Europe and Africa. She called next year’s ventures, “Do-Over Trips,” saying that travelers still wanted to take them because of the months of planning and emotional investment that had gone into the trips. And of course, while many companies in the travel industry have been flexible, some people were concerned about losing deposits.

Closer to home, the  Disney Information Station, (DIS) a large, online, unofficial guide to Walt Disney World (WDW), Disneyland, and Disney Cruise Line has also offered reasons why you may want to book your 2021 trip to the Happiest|Most Magical Places on Earth pretty soon. In addition to locking in 2020 ticket prices, resort supply is limited, as not all resorts were on the reopening list and available for scheduling. Further, the resorts that have become available to book haven’t released their full inventory of rooms. With limited capacity, pent-up demand, and trips being moved from 2020 to 2021, many resorts and room categories are selling out—so that scheduling now may help you get better travel dates. Also, according to DIS, several weeks ago WDW paused all bookings for both this year and next because they wanted to limit capacity. Bookings for 2020 have still not opened up, and they may not reopen at all. The author contended that if capacity for 2021 starts to fill up, WDW may shut down bookings again, locking out those who haven’t yet already secured reservations. Their advice? Book now and modify later.

So once again, while 2020 hasn’t turned out to be like anyone expected, this research shows that US travelers aren’t quitters—they’re flexible and determined. And with a little help from TripTik, some good travel agents, and travel sites, they’ll still be able to get the most out of wherever they’re going.

Whatever you do and wherever you go this summer, enjoy it—and be safe.

Until next time,

[i] Casselano, J. (2020, June 25). AAA Forecasts Americans will take 700 Million Trips this Summer; newsroom.aaa.com;  https://newsroom.aaa.com/2020/06/aaa-forecasts-americans-will-take-700-million-trips-this-summer/#:~:text=(June%2025%2C%202020)%20%E2%80%93,in%20summer%20travel%20since%202009.

[ii] Ibid

[iii] Keates, N. (2020 June 23). That Big Vacation You Scrapped Is Already Selling Out for Next Summer; The Wall Street Journal, Life & Arts|Travel (2020 July 7); https://www.wsj.com/articles/that-big-vacation-you-scrapped-is-already-selling-out-for-next-summer-11592918920

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