Coronavirus could cause record-low Memorial Day travel; no forecast from AAA

The coronavirus crisis could cause record-low travel this Memorial Day weekend, and AAA says the pandemic has ruined its ability to create a travel forecast as the disease continues to throw summer plans into disarray.

It’s the first time the AAA hasn’t been able to release a forecast in 20 years.

Anecdotal evidence suggests fewer people will be hitting the road compared to last year, when a record number of D.C.-area residents traveled, according to the nonprofit.

A record low is likely.

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“Last year, 43 million Americans traveled for Memorial Day weekend — the second-highest travel volume on record since AAA began tracking holiday travel volumes in 2000,” said Paula Twidale, senior vice president of AAA Travel.

“With social distancing guidelines still in practice, this holiday weekend’s travel volume is likely to set a record low.”

According to AAA, the current record low for travel was set in 2009 at the end of the Great Recession when there were 31 million holiday travelers.

This year, the entire D.C. region is operating under restrictions like stay-at-home orders, social distancing, mandatory masks and the closure of nonessential businesses.

AAA expects domestic travel to rebound, however.

“When it is safe to travel, vacationers will explore America’s backyard. In fact, AAA expects to make travel projections for the late summer and fall, assuming states ease travel restrictions and businesses reopen,” said John B. Townsend II, AAA Mid-Atlantic’s manager of public and government affairs. “Already, there are indications that Americans’ wanderlust is inspiring them to plan future vacations.”

AAA said its online bookings have increased, albeit modestly, since mid-April. It also predicts that most destinations will be based in the U.S., mostly local and regional.

The preference for domestic treks as opposed to international trips is common during presidential election years because people want to see how the economy and global relations are impacted, according to AAA.

This year, of course, there’s another reason travelers are wary of heading overseas: coronavirus.

Will Vitka

William Vitka is a Digital Writer/Editor for He's been in the news industry for over a decade. Before joining WTOP, he worked for CBS News, Stuff Magazine, The New York Post and wrote a variety of books—about a dozen of them, with more to come.

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