AAA Travel Tips / Road Trips Top Summer Travel Plans

Road Trips Top Summer Travel Plans
By AAA Travel Editors
November 30, 2021
Americans are making travel plans again, though cautiously and more spur-of-the-moment, according to AAA.
“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. “When they do venture out, the greatest share of travelers—683 million—will take to the road to satisfy their wanderlust.”
AAA travel experts have begun to see positive trends in travel, with hotel and rental car bookings gradually increasing since April, though air travel has been slower to rebound. Car trips will reign supreme this summer, accounting for 97 percent of summer travel. Car trips will also see the smallest decrease in travel volume at just 3 percent, while air travel will be down about 74 percent. Rail, cruise ship and bus travel will slide by 86 percent.
Before the COVID-19 pandemic, AAA would have predicted 857 million trips for the period between July 1 and Sept. 30, a 3.6 percent increase over 2019. Instead, the pandemic wiped out nearly 150 million planned trips this summer.

Road Trips and Top Destinations

With travel restrictions lifting but social distancing still recommended, it's no surprise that 97 percent of summer trips were by car. That's up from an average of 87 percent over the past five years. Road trips allow travelers to make their own schedule and customize stops based on their comfort level and interests. For families, especially those with small children, it's an easier and less expensive way to travel.
This summer, road trippers should plan their travel in advance using AAA TripTik—a tradition that has guided generations of road trippers with paper and digital maps. The digital tool now includes updates about COVID-19 travel restrictions. Travelers looking for inspiration can search pre-planned road trip routes at For more tips on how to plan a road trip, see "Rule the Road: How AAA Members Can Save Money and Road Trip Smarter" at
“Beyond routing your map in advance, it is important to book hotels and plan out gas and food stops. Also, keep in mind that some national parks and attractions have capacity limits, so if there is a must-do activity on your trip, you'll want to make arrangements for these in advance,” added Twidale.
Big cities that typically draw large crowds won't be as popular this summer, based on TripTik destination searches made earlier this year. Orlando dropped from the No. 1 most-searched destination to No. 8, while Denver jumped from No. 10 to No. 1. Based on searches from March 15 to June 14, these are the top 10 most-searched destinations:
1. Denver
2. Las Vegas
3. Los Angeles
4. Seattle
5. Phoenix
6. Portland, Ore.
7. Myrtle Beach, S.C.
8. Orlando
9. San Diego
10. Nashville
AAA/Greg Weekes

Road Trips and Traffic

While the top 20 metropolitan areas in the United States will have less traffic congestion than usual this summer, some states could see traffic rise to normal levels, according to an analysis by INRIX in collaboration with AAA.
"While the amount people drive is still low for this time of year, we know millions will be taking road trips in the months ahead. The good news is, the congestion they will encounter is nowhere near what we typically see in a summer,” said Bob Pishue, a transportation analyst at INRIX.
INRIX predicts that these states are least likely to reach normal traffic congestion: Arizona, California, Connecticut, Florida, Hawaii, Illinois, Louisiana, Maryland, Massachusetts, Nevada, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Texas, Vermont and Washington.

Gas Prices to Remain Low

AAA expects the national gas price to average near $2.25 per gallon for the third quarter of 2020, which will be a 15 percent 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.
AAA/Inspector 40

Booking Your Hotel

AAA Travel Data shows that as destinations reopen, these will be the top 10 most popular hotel destinations:
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
AAA recommends that travelers planning a road trip with an overnight stay look for hotels with a AAA Diamond designation. (For extra confidence, look for properties displaying AAA's Inspected Clean.)
“In light of COVID-19, AAA is revising the inspection process used in its Diamonds Program,” said Twidale. “The new criteria will reflect best practices for protecting the health of hotel guests, employees and AAA inspectors.”
Prior to your hotel stay, AAA recommends calling ahead to ensure your hotel is still open and asking about any restrictions or changes to the check-in process. It’s likely that the hotel has reduced the number of times guests have face-to-face interactions with other guests and hotel staff. When you check into your room, remember to wipe down surfaces with disinfecting wipes. Pay special attention to surfaces such as light switches, doorknobs, faucets and remote controls.

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 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.

About AAA

AAA provides more than 60 million members with automotive, travel, insurance and financial services through its federation of 32 motor clubs and nearly 1,000 branch offices across North America. Since 1902, the not-for-profit, fully tax-paying AAA has been a leader and advocate for safe mobility. Drivers can request roadside assistance, identify nearby gas prices, locate discounts, book a hotel or map a route via the . To join, visit