By Robert Sinclair
After a yearlong pause of normal activities due to the coronavirus, millions of Americans are daily receiving the vaccine and eagerly looking forward to resuming discontinued activities, including the family vacation. Lockdowns have prevented what is at least a yearly rite for Americans who eagerly anticipate their vacations with excitement and glee. New guidelines from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention provide assurances that taking a trip can be done safely by vaccinated and even unvaccinated persons, if certain precautions are taken.
The eagerness to take a vacation is being seen at AAA Travel with a 40 percent increase in trip bookings in the last month alone, a trend we expect will continue. Disney Orlando is most popular, followed by Aruba, Hawaii, and Universal Florida. River cruises, domestic and foreign, are also much sought after. Ocean cruise lines are preparing to resume sailings for some Caribbean and Mediterranean ports starting in June. Reservations are strong for all of 2021 and well into 2022. With limited capacity on many tours and cruises, booking in advance is recommended to secure your spot and the best rate if booking travel weeks and months out.
Advance bookings will also ensure your destination is open, and allow you to check on testing requirements to re-enter the U.S. We are also seeing a lot of last-minute travel plans for Florida, the Caribbean, and domestic travel with car rentals and theme park ticket sales near capacity. In either case, a travel agent can be helpful, providing the latest information on availability, the ability to make last-minute changes, and knowledge about insurance options and up-to-date safety information.
While travel by air, cruise, train, and bus are popular options, many vacation trips in the U.S. are made by car. Loading up the family vehicle to explore a location in our vast, geographically diverse nation remains a great way to relax, unwind and bond as a family. Unfortunately, 2020 proved to be a particularly deadly year on the roads despite much less traffic. Preliminary data for last year show that more than 40,000 people perished in road crashes.
Percentage wise, this was the largest year-over-year increase in road deaths since 1924, according to the National Safety Council. These chilling figures remind us of the need to be safe on our roads. Vehicle maintenance after long periods of no driving is critical to safety. Motorists should have a qualified technician inspect and repair their vehicles prior to a long road trip, with attention given to proper tire pressure and battery service, the top items we get calls for at AAA. Fluid checks and examination of belts and hoses are also critical.
The looming increase in car travel this summer calls attention to our nation’s poor infrastructure. Awful pavement conditions, along with masses of functionally obsolete and structurally deficient bridges, cost drivers billions in repairs, create congestion, and lead to fatal and injury crashes. New York State is meeting the need with a record $6.1 billion in funding for road and bridge repair and construction in the latest budget. The federal government is negotiating a massive infrastructure bill that promises to significantly improve conditions.
Travel is a major part of the U.S. economy. As we emerge from the dark days of the pandemic, taking a trip will be part of what makes our nation return to economic strength. We must do all we can to make sure it happens safely.