AAA predicts large increase in summer travel, gives tips to plan ahead

FILE – In this May 28, 2021 file photo, travelers wait for their luggage at a baggage carousel at Miami International Airport in Miami. The airline industry’s recovery from the pandemic passed a milestone as more than 2 million people streamed through U.S. airport security checkpoints on Friday for the first time since early March 2020. (AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee, File)

A greater number of people are anticipated to travel this summer compared to last year, as new data shows growing interest in domestic road trips and the beginnings of a return to air, international and cruise travel, according to a AAA report.

AAA East Central is projecting a sharp increase in overnight road trips with hotel stays this summer compared to the prior two years, based on online and Auto Club branch driving vacation map route requests through AAA’s TripTik service,

Year TripTik printouts with hotel stops marked, April 1-May 15 Overall TripTik usage, April 1-May 15
  and % increase from 2020 and 2019 and % increase from 2020 and 2019
 2019 10,000  19,500
2020 50,000 (+400% from 2019) 102,000 (+423% from 2019)
2021 100,000 (+100% from 2020, +900% from 2019) 307,000 (+596% from 2020, +1474% from 2019)

Among AAA members who are taking air vacations, North American travel is starting to increase significantly this year compared to 2019. May 2021 bookings for Pleasant Holidays destinations – which include Hawaii, Mexico and the Caribbean – are up significantly compared to May 2019.

“Travelers are excited to start planning vacations again, whether it’s a family road trip or booking an exotic trip to a new destination,” said Bevi Powell, senior vice president, AAA East Central. “And as countries reopen and North American cruises start to sail in the coming weeks, it’s never been more important to work with a travel adviser to make sure you get the best availability and prices.” 

Americans’ positive sentiment toward travel has rapidly grown from January to May as vaccinations increased and COVID-19 statistics decreased, according to the weekly Coronavirus Sentiment Index surveys conducted this year by Destination Analysts, a tourism market research firm. The surveys found:

  • In January, 55% of those surveyed said they were ready to travel, and by May that number grew to 77%.
  • Of those planning leisure trips this summer, 71% have out-of-state destinations and 45% are traveling within their state.
  • 43% of respondents in a March Destination Analysts survey had planned a vacation in anticipation of receiving a COVID-19 vaccine.

AAA East Central recommends several plan-ahead tips for summer travelers:

  • Make reservations. National parks are requiring advance registrations, so don’t expect to be able to get in without one. Hotels in remote areas, likewise, are selling out quickly, so make sure to reserve them in advance. And a nationwide rental car shortage could also create difficulties for travelers, so consider driving your own vehicle or using alternate transportation such as tour buses.
  • Don’t forget passports/documentation. If you are taking one of the first North American cruises being offered this summer, you need a passport even if it’s a cruise to Alaska. Allow extra time to process your passport. Auto Club members can get 30% off passport photos at any Auto Club branch.
  • Bring paper maps. If you are driving in remote areas, it may be difficult to access data-based online GPS. The Auto Club has free domestic maps available to members at any of its branches.
  • Get your vehicle inspected. Many vehicles have been sitting largely unused for the past year and could have problems handling a long road trip without a maintenance service visit. Make sure fluid levels, hoses, belts and tires are in good condition and that tires are properly inflated for safety and fuel efficiency. Visit to find a qualified and AAA-inspected mechanic near you.
  • Bring along needed extras for safety.  Make sure you have masks for everyone in the family for the duration of your trip, as well as hand sanitizer. Bring along an emergency first aid kit and have plenty of drinks and food available for all in the car in case you get stranded on the road.
  • Consider planning your trip with the help of a AAA travel advisor who can help you save time, find the best deals and assist with making changes should you need to while away.

You can follow AAA East Central on Twitter and Facebook.

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