(CNN) — Summer is here, and the time is right to … never mind.
The coronavirus pandemic all but stopped leisure travel in the United States for much of the spring, and with summer upon us, many Americans are still unsure what a vacation is supposed to look like in 2020.
After canceling its annual Memorial Day travel forecast because of the pandemic, the Automobile Association of America (AAA) has instead come out with a 2020 summer travel forecast covering July 1 through September 30.
According to AAA, Americans will take over 700 million trips in July, August and September, which is 120 million fewer trips than in 2019.
In an alternate universe where the pandemic never hit, “AAA would be projecting 857 million trips in the third quarter, a 3.6% increase over last year. By this analysis, the pandemic wiped out nearly 150 million person-trips this summer.”
The overall 14.6% decline in travel is primarily because of reduced air travel, according to AAA. “The forecast air travel volume of 15.1 million will be 74% below last year’s levels.”
As to other modes of mass transportation, the AAA forecast projects bus, rail and cruise ship travel “will see a decrease similar to air travel, as the 9.3 million expected travel volume is 86% below the level seen in 2019.”
While the overall numbers are unsurprisingly low, and this is the first dip in travel volume since 2009, the car trip forecast is only down 3%.
“Americans will get out and explore this summer though they’re taking a ‘wait and see approach’ when it comes to booking and are likely to book more long weekend getaways than extended vacations,” said Paula Twidale, AAA’s senior vice president of Travel in a news release.
“When they do venture out, the greatest share of travelers — 683 million — will take to the road to satisfy their wanderlust.”
Where are people headed?
The AAA Summer Travel forecast also includes some data about the destinations their users are searching for this summer, based on searches on their website, TripTik.AAA.com, between March 15 and June 14. The No. 1 destination is Denver, followed by Las Vegas and Los Angeles.
The AAA’s forecast and data paired with the rise in coronavirus cases across the United States as restrictions are being lifted makes the decision-making about whether to travel at all right now — even by car — all the more fraught.
In fact, California saw its largest one-day increase in Covid-19 cases on Wednesday.
CNN’s Christina Maxouris reported, “At least 26 states are seeing new coronavirus cases increase compared with the prior week. Remember, the number of states where cases are increasing is also on the rise.”
While the summer travel outlook is far from rosy, in terms of both reduced volume and the health risk, we can always choose to put our energy toward planning trips next year.
Here’s to summer 2021!