Overall travel dropped sharply in the spring and early summer as the result of the COVID pandemic but, according to the AAA of Western and Central New York, a wide majority of vacation travel this year has been kept within New York State and done by car. Heading into the Labor Day holiday weekend, the AAA expects this trend to continue.
Travel by car, according to AAA officials, accounted for 97 percent of summer travel.
"Some of the top trends AAA has been seeing, based on requests from local travelers, are the Thousand Islands and the Adirondack regions, along with other areas within New York State such as the Finger Lakes, the Catskills Chautauqua, Lake George and the Niagara Falls area," said Brian Murray, the AAA's Director of Travel. "Travel within New York has been extremely popular as residents like to avoid a quarantine."
Also helping to fuel the interest in travel by car this summer, explained the AAA's April Engram, were falling gas prices.
"When the national lockdown commenced in response to the pandemic, gas prices decreased dramatically because of the drop in demand. This led to pump prices in the Western and Central New York area that we hadn't seen in years," she said. "For instance, on January 6, we reported the national gas price at $2.58. By March 31, it dropped to $1.99. What this meant for travel is that people could take advantage of the low prices to travel more by car while practicing social distancing. By June, we noticed a new travel trend, the road trip. Today, gas prices remain low. As of September 3, the New York State average is $2.30. For perspective, a year ago it was $2.80, making traveling by car the most affordable and safe mode of travel for many."
The trend is expected to continue into the fall, travel officials say, with New Yorkers interested in visiting wineries and viewing changing foliage. This year, with the pandemic to consider, AAA is advising travelers to pack safety kits beginning with masks and sanitizer, along with the usual bottled water, snacks and other items they typically recommend.
They're also advising people planning to travel in 2021 to move forward with arrangements now.
"We're seeing actually right now that availability is tight," Murray said. "For example, the Alaska season was totally canceled this year, so people are now booking. They want to get that vacation in place. Many had future travel credits to use, so we are seeing that space is booking up, and it is tight. So, people should plan now and we're seeing that they're doing that."