AAA study finds Florida residents changing travel plans during pandemic

Many are staying closer to home because of the COVID-19 outbreak.
Cars drive on Interstate 275 in St. Petersburg on Wednesday.
Cars drive on Interstate 275 in St. Petersburg on Wednesday. [ MARTHA ASENCIO RHINE | Times ]
Published June 17, 2020

With the ongoing threat of COVID-19, Floridians are shifting their travel plans.

The pandemic has affected 76 percent of state residents’ travel plans this year, according to a recent AAA survey. The data indicates that 40 percent of respondents rescheduled one or more vacations this year and 39 percent said they cancelled a trip altogether.

“Even as Florida reopens and travel providers implement enhanced sanitation protocols, Floridians are mixed on how soon they’d be willing to take a road trip, a flight, or simply stay in a hotel,” said Mark Jenkins, spokesman, AAA, the Auto Club Group. “The majority say it will take some time before they feel comfortable traveling like they used to. Until then, Floridians will take fewer trips than normal, and take extra precautions to avoid contracting the virus.”

The online survey included responses from 401 Florida residents between May 20 and May 24 and weighted them using gender and age to reflect Florida’s adult population.

Overall, 57 percent of participants said they would travel less due to the pandemic. Of those surveyed, 27 percent said they rescheduled a vacation for later this year and 13 percent said they rescheduled their trips for next year or later. Another 24 percent said the coronavirus did not affect their 2020 travel.

“Floridians who are interested in traveling this summer are more likely to explore their own backyard, by traveling closer to home — due to the threat of the coronavirus,” Jenkins said. “This means more people opting to take a road trip, instead of a flight, to avoid being in close quarters with strangers. The added value in driving is that summertime gas prices are the lowest in 15 years.”

Excluding Memorial and Labor Day weekends, 62 percent of Florida residents took a vacation in 2019, compared to 33 percent of Floridians who say they have travel plans this summer.

During this summer, 35 percent of those surveyed sayd they would feel safe taking a road trip in their own cars within 300 miles of their home. Only 14 percent would rent a car to take a road trip. Meanwhile, 23 percent said they would stay in a hotel and 18 percent said they’d feel comfortable flying a commercial airline.

When asked what they would need to feel safe traveling, here’s how Floridians responded:

  • 48 percent said a COVID-19 vaccine
  • 41 percent of survey respondents said they’d feel safe travel when the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention or the World Health Organization said it was safe to travel
  • 38 percent said a decrease in COVID-19 cases
  • 30 percent said airlines being declared safer or cleaner

About 3 in 4 travelers (76 percent) said they would follow CDC guidelines, which encourage social distancing, handwashing and wearing a mask. Among survey participants, 67 percent said they’d bring cleaning supplies on their trips. About half of participants (48 percent) said they’re more likely to buy travel insurance and 25 percent said they’re more likely to use a travel agent.

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For those planning to travel this summer, AAA recommends researching a hotel’s cancellation policy and cleaning processes before booking. Travelers should also bring their own supplies to sanitize frequently touched surfaces in their hotel rooms and research which lodging amenities have been affected by the pandemic.

Air travelers should bring masks and cleaning products with them, practice social distancing and handwashing and research quarantine policies for their final destination. Those flying should look into their airlines’ policies before booking. AAA also suggests minimizing contact with others by packing food for the journey that doesn’t violate Transportation Safety Administration policies and using tools like online check-in.