BOISE – According to a new AAA survey, 3 out of 10 Americans plan to take at least one vacation between now and the end of the year, with 536,000 Idahoans expected to join in the fun.  But things will look a little different this fall – with COVID-19 restrictions in place and fewer opportunities for tourism, many travelers will skip the roller coasters and head for destinations that showcase the Great Outdoors.

“Florida is mostly open for business, but the theme parks in California aren’t up and running yet, and Hawaii’s just starting to re-open,” says AAA Idaho spokesman Matthew Conde.  “Some travelers will be happy just to visit family and friends that they haven’t seen in a long time, while others will seek out fall foliage or easy physical distancing in places like ski areas and the National Parks.”

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention continues to advise that staying home is the best way to protect yourself and others from COVID-19.  But for those who make the very personal decision to travel, AAA recommends checking with state and local authorities for any restrictions that may be in place, including at their end destination and any stops along the way.

This fall, AAA members’ top travel picks include:

“Most of the popular destinations this year offer outdoor adventure within fairly easy reach,” Conde explained.  “And even though we didn’t make the list, Idaho’s natural wonders are sure to attract some out-of-state visitors, along with folks who have decided to stay closer to home.”

AAA says that 80 percent of travelers are planning to take a road trip this fall, but in a surprising turn of events, 23 percent of survey respondents plan to fly at some point – during the summer months, just three percent were willing to do so.  As airports and airlines develop comprehensive health and safety plans, more people will feel comfortable with this mode of travel.

With flexibility as their mantra, many travelers will either take a vacation that doesn’t require any advance booking, or one that can be finalized less than a month before they depart.  Yet 62 percent of travelers are very or extremely confident that they will actually be able to take their vacation.

Planning a road trip during the pandemic

Travelers need to adapt to the “new normal” to protect their health and safety:

  • Plan ahead. can help you determine which rest areas, gas stations and hotels are open along your route.  AAA’s Covid-19 Travel Restrictions Map also has the latest state and local travel restrictions.
  • Call ahead. Hotel and restaurant capacity may be limited during the pandemic.  Call ahead for restaurant reservations or to learn about curbside and carryout options to reduce your contact with other people.  Double-check the hotel’s availability and cancellation policy.
  • Bring the PPE. Pack face coverings, hand sanitizer, and a thermometer to check temperatures as needed.  Don’t travel if you’re sick.
  • Use disinfectant wipes to clean high-touch surfaces in hotel rooms, like light switches, remote controls, door handles, and phones.
  • As always, make sure your vehicle and emergency kit are ready for the road.

At the airport

  • TSA currently allows one liquid hand sanitizer up to 12 ounces per passenger in carry-on bags until further notice.
  • Don’t travel if you’re sick.
  • Stock up on snacks. Buy beverages and snacks once you’ve cleared security – many airlines are suspending in-flight beverage service.
  • Practice social distancing at the airport. Leave some space between you and other passengers even if you’re waiting in line to go through security or to board the plane.
  • Rental car companies have adopted extra sanitization measures in the wake of COVID-19.

“After you’ve prepared as best you can, try to avoid feelings of stress and disappointment by being ready to adapt as needed,” Conde said.  “This is a challenging time for everyone, and we don’t need to make things worse by losing patience with circumstances that are largely beyond our control.”