Pandemic will suppress Memorial Day travel, but Americans already planning future trips

For the first time in 20 years, AAA will not issue a Memorial Day travel forecast, as the accuracy of the economic data used to create the forecast has been undermined by COVID-19. Anecdotal reports suggest fewer people will hit the road compared to years past for what is considered the unofficial start of the summer travel season.

“Last year, 43 million Americans traveled for Memorial Day Weekend – the second-highest travel volume on record since AAA began tracking holiday travel volumes in 2000,” said Sergio Avila, spokesperson, AAA Northern California. “With physical distancing guidelines still in practice, this holiday weekend’s travel volume is likely to set a record low.”

There are indications, however, that Americans’ wanderlust is inspiring them to plan future trips. online bookings have been rising, though modestly, since mid-April. When it is safe to travel, AAA Northern California expects vacationers will gravitate to road trips and family bookings to destinations in the U.S., Canada and Mexico. Shortly thereafter, assuming international travel restrictions are lifted, we expect to see demand for a wider range of international travel.

“The saying goes that the journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step. Americans are taking that first step toward their next journey from the comfort of their home by researching vacation opportunities and talking with travel agents,” said Avila. “We are seeing that Americans are showing a preference and inspiration to explore all that our country has to offer as soon as it is safe to travel.”

AAA’s annual Memorial Day travel forecast will return next year. Memorial Day 2009 currently holds the record for the lowest travel volume at nearly 31 million travelers. AAA expects to make travel projections for the late summer and fall, assuming states ease travel restrictions and businesses reopen.