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Where to go? What to do?

COVID-19 sidelines holiday travel plans

Staff photo / Beth Shiller A motorist makes his way through the Ohio Turnpike toll booth at the North Jackson exit Thursday morning. Monday is Memorial Day and the unofficial kickoff of the summer travel season, but AAA expects traffic numbers to be way down because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

AAA will not issue its Memorial Day travel forecast, as the accuracy of the economic data used to create the forecast has been undermined by COVID-19.

“In 2019, there were 490,477 passenger vehicles and 85,746 commercial vehicles that traveled on the turnpike over the four-day Memorial Day weekend (May 24 to May 27). Last week, the number of passenger cars traveling the Ohio Turnpike was down 48.3 percent from last year and the number of commercial vehicles traveling it was down 14.6 percent from last year,” said Brian Newbacher, a public information officer with the Ohio Turnpike.

“It is not possible to accurately project traffic over this Memorial Day weekend due to the unknown effect the COVID-19 pandemic will have on customer vacation plans. Additionally, major events like Ohio Bike Week were canceled, and major attractions like Cedar Point remain closed. These factors also will have an impact.”

AAA expects vacationers will gravitate to road trips and family bookings including air, car, hotel and activities to destinations in the U.S., Canada and Mexico. Once international travel restrictions are lifted, AAA expects to see more demand for tropical destinations and a wider range of international travel.

“In terms of this Memorial Day, a lot of people are still focusing on following the rules and regulations and still kind of focusing on those guidelines … Last year was the second most traveled Memorial Day on record. We’re not expecting anything near that this year,” Jim Garrity, AAA Public and Legislative Affairs manager, said.

Garrity said travel agents are getting a lot of inquiries about travel but haven’t booked anything yet.

“We’ll first see a resurgence in domestic travel, a lot of people heading to backyard-type destinations, maybe to the beach, maybe to the lake … or it could be a lot of folks who are saying, ‘Well, we might as well use this as an opportunity to go and see a bucket list destination’ somewhere in America, especially if gas prices remain low,” Garrity added.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention continue to recommend that Americans stay home and avoid nonessential travel. Americans should heed all official warnings and refer to the latest updates from the CDC and U.S. Department of Health to help decrease the spread of COVID-19.

AAA advises the decision to travel is a personal one that must be made by the individual.

For those still planning to travel, AAA offers essential information and resources to guide exploring future domestic vacations. AAA suggests being informed of the restrictions and COVID-19 policies of the location you are traveling to as well as making sure you have enough masks, gloves, hand sanitizer and whatever else you feel you will need for the trip.

“Coming off the second highest travel volume on record one year ago is a good indicator that travel will rebound eventually,” said Bevi Powell, senior vice president, AAA East Central. “This holiday weekend travel will likely be low. However, staying within social distancing guidelines will be the primary focus.”

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