A holiday weekend with 64% more Southern Californians taking Memorial Day trips compared to last year will be the start of a summer filled with domestic road trips and the beginnings of a return to air, international and cruise travel, according to the Automobile Club of Southern California.
The Auto Club 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, TripTik.AAA.com. TripTik map route printouts with hotel stops marked along the way between April 1 and May 15 grew 10 times from 2019 to 2021 and doubled this year compared to 2020, when many travelers were printing out routes in anticipation of being able to travel later.
Among Auto Club 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 signficantly compared to May 2019.
“Many of our members are taking domestic road trips and North American air trips instead of options that have not yet fully reopened such as cruises and international tours,” said Filomena Andre, the Auto Club’s vice president for travel services. “But new countries and cruise lines are rapidly announcing reopenings every day and North American cruises start at the end of June, so travelers who are interested in those types of vacations should work with a travel adviser to make sure they get the best availability and price.”
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.
Arrivalist measures the number of consumer road trips of 50 miles or more and calculates that Californians’ trips between April 27 and May 26 of this year are 60.9% higher than during the same period last year, and just 1.9% lower than during the same period in 2019.
The Auto Club 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 AAA.com.repair 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.