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Not your average summer: check out how COVID-19 is changing how people travel and where they go

Multiple states are still facing restrictions as the 4th of July weekend begins

It's the beginning of 4th of July weekend. But the holiday isn't business as usual. 

Canceled events, delayed openings, and COVID-19 restrictions are forcing a change to the way people travel.  

"Typically you're thinking about summer travel 6 months to a year in advance. This year, our bookings were typically 48 hours to seven days in advance," said Doni Lee Spiegel, spokesperson for AAA.

AAA forecasted Americans will take 700 million trips, down by nearly 15% compared to last July through September. It's the first decline in summer travel since 2009.

Were it not for the pandemic, AAA said it would be projecting 857 million trips during the third quarter, a 3.6% increase over last year.

AAA also notes people are changing the places in which they are planning to travel. 

"For example, Orlando has been top of the list for quite awhile. It dropped to number 8," said Spiegel, "interestingly enough, one of my favorite cities Denver, Colorado was number 10, bumped up to number one."

The other cities falling into the top 10 of TripTik destination searches include: Las Vegas, Los Angeles, Seattle, Phoenix, Portland, Myrtle Beach, San Diego, Nashville. The normally busy Disney theme parks in Orlando won't reopen until July 11 starting with Magic Kingdom and Animal Kingdom. EPCOT and Hollywood Studios will follow July 15.

Florida also falls on Pennsylvania's list of states where it is suggested that people quarantine for 14 days after returning home:

  • Alabama
  • Arizona
  • Arkansas
  • California
  • Florida
  • Georgia
  • Idaho
  • Louisiana
  • Mississippi
  • Nevada
  • North Carolina
  • South Carolina
  • Tennessee
  • Texas
  • Utah

Pittsburgh falls under an order that went into effect at 12:01 Friday morning from Allegheny County's Health Department to close bars, restaurants and casinos for one week and to cancel activities over 25 people. The order still allows for take-out and delivery.  

Atlantic City casinos started to reopen on Thursday. 

Multiple beaches are open, but with safety precautions. 

AAA said car trips reign supreme for travel this year with vehicles accounting for 97% of the favored mode of transportation. However, air travel is expected to be off by 74%, while rail, cruise ship and bus travel are predicted to slide by 86%. 

AAA said "travel experts have begun to see positive trends in travel, noting that hotel and rental car bookings have been gradually increasing since April. Air travel has been slower to rebound."

Spiegel reminded everyone to pack extra gloves, their health insurance cards, and a thermometer on trips. 

More predictions from AAA:

National Gas Price Average

AAA expects the national gas price to average near $2.25/gallon for the third quarter of 2020, which will be a 15% decline from the $2.66 average seen last summer. This will be the cheapest summer for filling-up since 2016. 

When at the pump, AAA recommends wearing disposable gloves or using a plastic sandwich bag to avoid touching the pump handle. When back in your car, be sure to clean your hands with sanitizer or wipes.

Hotels

AAA Travel data shows that when top destinations, including Las Vegas, Orlando and NYC,  were shut-down earlier in the year, bookings shifted to smaller destinations. As those top destinations begin to open, they are once again the top hotel destinations, though advance bookings in general are nearly 25% shorter than this time last year. Here are the top 10 most popular hotel destinations since mid-March based on AAA Travel bookings: 

1.     Las Vegas

2.     Orlando

3.     San Diego

4.     New York City

5.     Chicago

6.     Nashville

7.     Atlanta

8.     Houston

9.     Portland

10.  San Antonio

Know Before You Go

No matter how a traveler gets to their final destination, AAA recommends considering these points before you go:

·       Check the CDC’s Covid-19 data tracker, municipal and state health departments and local news for updates on coronavirus cases and continue to do so while on the road.

·       Visit AAA’s Covid-19 Travel Restrictions Map at TripTik.AAA.com for the latest state and local travel restrictions.

·       Pack face coverings, gloves and cleaning supplies - like disinfecting wipes, hand sanitizer - and a thermometer.

·       Take all necessary travel documentation, including health insurance cards.