Updated May 19, 2020
When it’s safe to travel, adventures close to home will be most popular
PORTLAND, Ore., – The summer travel season looks very different this year due to the coronavirus pandemic. Although travel restrictions are easing in most states, many areas are not ready to welcome tourists with open arms. As of May 15, 31 of Oregon’s 36 counties have entered the Phase 1 re-opening but most counties say they’re not ready for an influx of tourists. And many would-be travelers aren’t ready to hit the road yet, either.
Memorial Day is usually considered to be unofficial start of the summer travel season. But most Americans will be staying home this year.
For the first time in 20 years, AAA will not issue a Memorial Day travel forecast due to COVID-19. The annual forecast – which estimates the number of people traveling over the holiday weekend and provides data on people’s trips – will return next year. This summer, AAA expects to make travel projections for the late summer and fall, assuming states ease travel restrictions and businesses reopen.
“Last year, 43 million Americans including 557,000 Oregonians traveled for Memorial Day Weekend – the second-highest travel volume on record since AAA began tracking holiday travel volumes in 2000,” says Marie Dodds, public affairs director for AAA Oregon/Idaho. “This year, Memorial Day travel volume is likely to set a record low because of the pandemic.”
While Memorial Day travel will be put on hold, many still want to plan future vacations.
Bookings at AAA Oregon/Idaho and online at AAA.com/travel show slow and steady increases since mid-April. “After weeks of staying at home, people are sure thinking about how and when they’ll be able to travel again,” says Doreen Loofburrow, senior vice president of travel for AAA Oregon/Idaho. “Domestic travel and the great American road trip will be some of the first post-coronavirus outings. Many are making plans to visit family and friends they haven’t been able to see while in quarantine–Grandma and Grandpa want to see their grandkids!”
Driving vacations to local and regional destinations are expected to pick up later in the summer. National parks, state parks and locations that provide an escape from crowds are of great interest. With gas prices about $1 a gallon lower than last year, a driving vacation is relatively budget-friendly. The current national average is $1.89 and the Oregon average is $2.40.
This can be an excellent time to book trips for later this year and into 2021 and beyond. “You can find incredible travel bargains now—prices are slashed on everything from flights to Vegas to that bucket-list dream destination. And with many travel providers easing or waiving cancellation policies, you’ll be able to change your plans if necessary. However, be sure to read the fine print to know exactly what the cancellation policies are,” says Loofburrow.
AAA has tips for those who want to plan a future getaway.
“You have to do your homework before you leave since many restrictions are still in place. Gone are the days when you can pack the kids in the car and just take off,” says Dodds.
- The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) 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.
- Many states, counties, cities and countries still discourage non-essential travel, or have travel restrictions in place. Some places require visitors to self-quarantine for 14 days. Check with each destination in advance.
- Book your lodging, camping and rental car in advance and check on the cleaning standards. Many hotels and rental car companies offer enhanced cleaning policies. See more information below on AAA’s Best of Housekeeping badge. Oregon has 181 properties from Albany to Yachats that are honored with the AAA Inspector’s Best of Housekeeping award. Here’s the complete list of Oregon properties.
- Consider working with a travel professional to help plan your trip. They can help you sort through all of the pandemic-related restrictions and help you get the biggest bang for your vacation dollars.
- Check with any museums, parks, attractions, etc. you want to visit. Many will have reduced operating hours and limit the number of visitors at a time. Many also require face masks. Consider purchasing tickets in advance.
- Bring snacks, beverages and non-perishable foods with you. Grocery stores may have limited hours. Check to see if restaurants are open, and if they offer dine-in service, take-out and/or delivery.
- Pack hygiene, cleaning and disinfecting products such as face masks, hand sanitizer, soap, wipes, sprays, paper towels, tissues, toilet paper, etc. as these items may be difficult to purchase while you’re on the road.
Memorial Day 2009 currently holds the record for the lowest travel volume at nearly 31 million travelers, according to AAA. That holiday weekend came toward the end of the Great Recession and the H1N1 flu pandemic was spreading across the U.S. https://www.cdc.gov/flu/pandemic-resources/2009-pandemic-timeline.html
This summer and fall, 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. For now, though, the borders to Mexico and Canada remain closed to non-essential travel until at least May 20. Later this year and beyond, assuming international travel restrictions are lifted, we expect to see more demand for tropical destinations and a wider range of international travel.
When we are able to travel again, AAA offers essential information and resources. Check these out:
- AAA Travel Guides – find expert insight about where to go, how to get around, what to do and see, and what not to miss. These vacation planners offer suggested itineraries and more to help you best know how to plan a trip without missing anything along the way.
- The Great American Road Trip – check out the 11 most popular road trips in America along with travel tips and expert advice from AAA Travel Inspectors and editors that will inspire you and help you find AAA Diamond designated hotels along the way.
- Travel Pros – knowledgeable AAA travel agents can help travelers assess their options and serve as their advocate in case any changes to travel plans are needed.
- Travel Insurance – consider purchasing travel insurance to protect vacation investments. It’s important to review your options with a travel adviser as many travel protection plans exclude losses caused by an epidemic.
- AAA’s Best of Housekeeping badge – look for a hotel that has earned the AAA Inspector’s Best of Housekeeping badge. While all AAA Diamond designated properties must pass a comprehensive inspection, hotels that display the Inspector’s Best of Housekeeping badge have achieved the highest possible scores for cleanliness, surpassing expectations, demonstrating housekeeping excellence for two consecutive inspections and are free of AAA member complaints. AAA is working with its industry partners to review its inspection process and standards to ensure they reflect the COVID-19 realities of today. To find all AAA Inspected & Approved hotels that have earned the 2019 AAA Inspector’s Best Of Housekeeping award, visit the AAA Travel Guides or TripTik Travel Planner.
- Road Trip Ready – if your car hasn’t hit the road in a while, AAA encourages you to take some simple steps to keep you and your vehicle safe. Use this car care checklist to ensure your vehicle is ready for summer travel. Have their vehicle inspected by a trusted repair shop, such as one of the more than 7,000 AAA Approved Auto Repair facilities across North America. Members can download the AAA Mobile app, visit AAA.com or call 1-800-AAA-HELP to request roadside assistance.
For those hoping to plan a trip in the West this year, here are links to COVID-19 travel information for each state:
For more information and to get started planning a future trip, visit AAA.com/Travel. AAA advises that the decision to travel is a personal one that must be made by the individual.
AAA provides more than 60 million members with automotive, travel, insurance and financial services through its federation of 32 motor clubs and nearly 1,000 branch offices across North America. Since 1902, the not-for-profit, fully tax-paying AAA has been a leader and advocate for safe mobility. Drivers can request roadside assistance, identify nearby gas prices, locate discounts, book a hotel or map a route via the AAA Mobile app. To join, visit AAA.com.
Find current fuel prices at GasPrices.AAA.com.
AAA news releases, high resolution images, broadcast-quality video, fact sheets and podcasts are available on the AAA NewsRoom at NewsRoom.AAA.com.
Find local news releases at https://www.oregon.aaa.com/category/news-releases/