In any other year, AAA releases predictions about travel and gas prices for Memorial Day weekend and the summer vacation season. But this isn't any other year.
"For the first time in 20 years we are not issuing a Memorial Day travel forecast," says AAA spokeswoman Jenifer Moore. "The accuracy of the economic data used to create the forecast has been undermined by COVID-19."
Coming as little surprise, AAA is expecting record low travel volume because of social distancing requirements and travel restrictions across multiple states.
Beyond Memorial Day weekend, Moore says they do see an uptick in travel. "We expect to make travel projections for the late summer and fall, and that's with the assumption states will ease travel restrictions such as quarantining for 14 days, and businesses reopen to their full capacity," she says. "What we are seeing is that there are some indications that Americans have a wanderlust and that's inspiring them to at least start planning future vacations."
Moore says AAA has seen online vacation bookings rise modestly, and the early indications are that Americans' travel patterns will be changing from past years. "When it is safe to travel, when the CDC and other officials give that safe guidance to travel, we believe that we'll start seeing vacationers prefer U.S. destinations: mostly local and regional, as opposed to flying internationally," Moore says.
That means a return of the Great American Roadtrip, she says. "We expect a lot of families to get in the car, and to go visit some of those landmark destinations that are in their state or in a nearby state."
Whether it's a day trip or an overnighter, Moore says it's important to think ahead. "You want to make sure you're researching to see what the local health department is advising on social distancing orders, also what are the businesses in these cities: what are their hours of operation, what are their requirements as far as social distancing and mask wearing?"
Low gas prices might make road trips more attractive this summer, too. Moore says gas prices in many places are under $2 a gallon, the lowest for Memorial Day in nearly two decades. She says prices at that level won't last. Demand will climb as businesses open up and people resume their commutes.
"One of the things that is working in our favor right now is that because of the stay-at-home restrictions across the country, we have a large supply of gas that we need to get through first," she says.