AAA estimates that the COVID-19 pandemic will cause 15 percent fewer people to take a summer trip this year than last. The estimate of 700 million trips from July through September 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 Aldo Vazquez, spokesperson for AAA Utah. “When they do venture out, the greatest share of travelers — 683 million — will take to the road to satisfy their wanderlust.” 

Car trips reign supreme accounting for 97 percent of the favored mode of transportation this year, Vazquez said. Road trips will also see the smallest decrease in travel volume of just 3 percent year-over-year. Air travel will be off by about 74 percent, while rail, cruise ship and bus travel will 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.

It’s not all bad news. 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.

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