PORTLAND, Ore — The summer of 2020 will be unlike any other, but probably not for the reasons you hoped.
"I think we're seeing such a huge pent up demand for travel. Many of us have been limiting activities for a solid three months or more, so people really are itching to get out of the house and go somewhere,” said Marie Dodds, AAA Oregon/Idaho director of government and public affairs.
If that's you, that itch may have transformed into actual plans. We asked multiple people hanging out near the waterfront in Portland if COVID-19 changed their summer travel plans.
We found mixed reactions; a few people said they still planned to hop on scheduled flights, others are planning, or hoping, to travel by car rather than plane, while others canceled plans altogether because they don't feel safe or able to go anywhere.
"I haven't received my unemployment for the last 12 weeks. I have no money," Jodi Webster said.
"We feel like things are simmered down enough so that we can take a trip," Jerson Miranda said.
"Most of our places are locked down. We wanted to go to Europe this summer,” Erich Barischoff told KGW. "I think it's going to be more road trips now if we're going to go anywhere."
“There's not a lot open right now trying to stay local," Marisol Rodriguez said. "I feel like airports are a little sketchy at the moment because there's just so many people and you don’t know who’s taking care of themselves."
Staying close to home is key to ensuring the virus doesn't continue to spread. But with places slowly reopening in Oregon and other western states, more people will start traveling again.
"I flew out to here from Pennsylvania to see my son and it wasn’t too bad. But I think I would rather be in a car because there was no social distancing whatsoever on the plane," Jennifer Everhard said.
“I don't feel like flying in a plane is safe right now with the pandemic. A road trip, that'd be great. I'd love to go to the coast, up to the mountains, maybe down to California," Janet Gallagher added.
AAA Oregon/Idaho says road trips will be the most popular way to travel this summer. In fact, 97% of travelers will drive.
AAA projects Americans will take 700 million trips over the next few months. While that sounds like a lot, it's a 15% drop compared to last year. That is the biggest decline since the Great Recession in 2009.
“With travel restrictions changing all the time and social distancing still recommended, car trips are the easiest way to adapt quickly. And if you want to you can do a fairly good job of avoiding crowds and groups of large people," Dodds said.
As for air travel, very few people are flying compared to what "normal" would be this time of year. So far in June, Portland International Airport has seen 83% fewer passengers than June of last year.
Air travel is rebounding a little bit, though. This month there have been about 12% more travelers than in April, when the number was at its lowest.
Traveling by car or plane during a worldwide pandemic carries risk and you need to protect yourself and everyone around you.
"Travel is a personal decision, so you have to decide if it's right to travel for you and your family," Dodds said.
This year's theme: plan ahead and do your homework. Break out a map and plan your route and pit stops.
AAA has tips for traveling during the COVID-19 pandemic:
- Heed all official warnings from local, state and national agencies. Make sure the destination you want to visit wants to welcome you and other tourists this summer.
- Non-essential travel guidance is a patchwork across areas, so check restrictions where you want to stop.
- Book lodging, cars and attractions in advance. Many places have limited capacity and might require reservations to make room for physically distancing and deeper cleaning.
- Make sure to pack cleaning products, and masks.
- Bring snacks and drinks with you because grocery stores may have limited hours.
AAA created an interactive map with details on COVID-19 travel restrictions.
"Gone are the days when you can just pile everyone into the car and think, 'Yeah, we'll just make plans as we go along'," Dodds said.