According to a recent AAA survey, people are starting to feel more and more comfortable with the idea of traveling somewhere. However, though many folks are planning to take trips by the end of the year, the survey found that 67 percent were dubious if they would actually be able to.
Fair enough. The rollercoaster ride we’ve come to know as the pandemic has caused a constant yo-yoing status of travel restrictions around the globe. Forget Vegas, betting on upcoming travel plans seems to be 2020’s favorite new game of risk-versus-reward. While many airlines, hotels, and other travel-related companies have extended or completely dropped change and/or cancellation fees, it seems that some people are still hesitant to pull the trigger on their vacation plans.
AAA shared that one in five travelers who said they were planning on taking a trip sometime this year have yet to book—and they don’t plan to until about a week before their travel dates. The rise in cautious travelers is not without cause. This last-minute booking behavior has been a trend throughout the pandemic, likely due to the seemingly ever-changing travel statuses and reopening dates. Seesawing case numbers for SARS-CoV-2 and COVID-19, especially in the United States, are also a big force behind belated bookings.
In fact, just on Thursday, multiple news outlets reported that 21 states—Alaska, Colorado, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Minnesota, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, New Mexico, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, South Dakota, Utah, West Virginia, Wisconsin, and Wyoming—had reached their peak seven-day average of new cases.
No wonder AAA found that nearly 80 percent of trips planned for the fall are road trips—another travel trend we’ve seen during the pandemic. “In a sign of the rising popularity of auto travel this fall,” AAA’s report announcement said, “use of AAA’s popular TripTik road trip planning tool has doubled compared to the spring and early summer.” It makes sense: while road trips still require a basic level of planning, they are also the most flexible and the least likely to leave you in a lurch thanks to an unforeseen change of plans. The announcement also said that lower-than-usual fall fuel prices, the lowest fall prices since 2016, may entice people to get behind the wheel for their travel plans.
Unsurprisingly, AAA also reported that the most popular U.S. road trip destinations were locations rich with outdoor space built for social distancing, like Denver, Colorado; Keystone, South Dakota; and Colorado Springs, Colorado—all destinations that made it into the top 10.
"Trips that allow people to take advantage of the great outdoors are particularly appealing this fall,” said Paula Twidale, the senior vice president of AAA Travel. “From hiking and exploring state and national parks, to visiting beaches and outdoor gardens, all of these top road trip destinations feature activities that allow families to enjoy America’s backyard within their individual comfort levels.”