This isn't the Memorial Day many of us thought we would see at the beginning of 2020. Usually, families plan a road trip or flight for the unofficial start of summer. But that was before COVID-19, stay-at-home orders and the constant need for hand sanitizer.
“Obviously, due to COVID-19 this year, it’s much, much different," said Jenifer Moore, senior specialist for public and government affairs in Cincinnati for AAA.
For the first time in 20 years, AAA is not offering a travel forecast this Memorial Day. Moore said the economic indicators undermined the ability to make predictions because of the pandemic. In 2019, 1.6 million Ohioans were expected to travel over the long holiday weekend. This year, with the easing of stay-at-home orders, it's difficult to say how comfortable people will feel leaving home. However, most likely won't stay home the entire summer.
“We actually took a survey in March and we found that 90 percent of Americans still plan on taking some type of vacation this summer. Again that’s based on current restrictions lifting and businesses opening back up,” said Moore.
She said most will likely travel by car instead of by plane, to have more control and avoid procedures at the airport.
“So road trips are still great," she said. "It’s an opportunity for you to really explore the country and everything we have in our backyard.”
Fortunately, gas prices remain low. The average price around Cincinnati is $1.99 for regular unleaded. That's nearly a dollar less than it was the same time a year ago. Moore said the price will likely inch up to the $2 mark within the next few weeks.
In addition, several gas companies have apps that you can download to pay for your gas from your phone. That means you don't have to touch the buttons at the pump to make credit card purchases.
Meanwhile, taking a road trip will likely involve more planning than filling up the gas tank. Moore said it is a good idea to plan the stops along the way in the event everything isn't open. That means ensuring you have reservations for hotels and camp facilities.
“Some of the restrooms and shower facilities may be limited based on the campground site,” she said. Camps at Ohio State parks opened on May 21, 2020, but, reservations are required. Campers are also advised to maintain "self-contained" camping, and a number of amenities like shelters, cabins, stores, pools and splash areas are still closed.
Another question to ask is what are the gathering rules if you plan to travel to another state. The regulations for each state are likely different.
“What we’re saying is regardless of where you are going, you’ll always want to check and see from the local and state health officials what guidance they are requiring and suggesting before you get there,” said Moore.
She said the main thing to remember is the virus is still out there.