Summer Travel Plans Surge For VA, DC Residents As COVID Concerns Ease

VIRGINIA/DC — Northern Virginia and D.C. residents are excited about the upcoming summer and are making plans to travel both domestically and internationally, despite high gasoline and jet fuel prices, according to a new AAA Travel poll.

More than 50 percent of D.C. area residents surveyed said they are planning to travel more this summer than last year, and many say it will be their first significant summer travel since before the COVID-19 pandemic began two years ago.

Among the residents polled, only 15 percent said they are staying home or are unsure about their summer travel plans. Within this group of people, about 25 percent cited gas prices as the biggest factor influencing that decision, according to the poll results released Tuesday.

For the residents who said they plan to travel more this summer, 50 percent said it is because their personal concerns about the COVID-19 pandemic have eased. About 20 percent of the residents said it is because travel concerns have eased at their planned summer travel destinations.

“The results of this new AAA Travel poll indicate that COVID concerns have eased dramatically and the majority of Washington, D.C. residents are making plans to get away despite gas prices,” Ragina Ali, spokesperson for AAA Mid-Atlantic, said in a statement Tuesday.

The AAA survey was conducted by Public Policy Polling, which surveyed 603 D.C. area residents on April 8-9. The survey has a margin of error of plus or minus 4 percent.

On Monday, a federal judge in Florida overturned the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's national mask mandate for all forms of public transportation, including planes, trains and buses. Individual airlines are still permitted to require their customers wear masks on flights.

READ ALSO: Mask Mandate For Public Transit In VA, DC Overturned By Federal Judge

But major U.S. airlines, including Delta and United, eliminated mask requirements on Monday soon after the ruling was announced. The decision brought cheers from some travelers and caused concerns for others, who thought the CDC's mask mandate on airplanes would remain in effect through at least early May.

The judge's ruling is likely to increase the number of Americans traveling by air. Airports were already seeing a big increase in travelers in March and April before the judge issued her decision on Monday to overturn the CDC's mask mandate.

With the increase in passengers, though, headaches are expected to worsen at airports, with longer lines at security and more flights getting canceled due to staffing shortages.

Inflation in airline ticket prices, as with consumer goods, is having a greater impact on consumer purchasing power than a few months ago. In March, airfares were 20 percent higher compared to 2019 levels, according to a new Adobe Digital Economy Index report, which tracks data on U.S. domestic flight bookings online.

“Consumers have seen online prices for physical goods rise now for 22 consecutive months, per the Adobe Digital Price Index, and inflation is becoming more prominent for services as well,” Vivek Pandya, lead analyst for Adobe Digital Insights, said in a news release. “The unleash of pent-up demand has been a major driving factor, as the desire for air travel is coming back more aggressively than anticipated.”

But looking farther out, the higher airfares are not having a big impact on travel plans. Domestic bookings for summer travel from June through August are picking up, according to Adobe Digital Insights.

For those planning to travel by car, more than 60 percent of D.C. area residents said gas prices were not even a consideration in their travel planning, according to the AAA survey.

Along with driving to the beach or traveling across the country, many people polled said they plan to travel overseas this summer.

“While domestic travel will dominate, it is interesting to note the number of people making plans to travel internationally as well. That’s something we have not seen since 2019,” AAA Mid-Atlantic's Ali said.

According to AAA, more than 70 percent of D.C. area residents are planning a trip of 50 miles or more this summer. Nearly 30 percent of area residents are planning their first significant summer travel since before the pandemic.

Almost 55 percent of D.C. area residents are planning multiple trips, and of those traveling, more than 40 percent are planning international travel, according to the poll.

About 25 percent said they are taking fewer or shorter trips because of gas prices. More than 10 percent said they will adjust their budget for lodging or dining out because of gas prices.

This article originally appeared on the Arlington Patch