700M trips planned this summer. But is it safe to travel with coronavirus?

Americans will take about 700 million trips this summer, down about 15 percent from last year as travel plans are adapted during the coronavirus pandemic.

About 683 million of those trips will be road trips, said Micki Dudas, AAA managing director of leisure travel. The agency didn’t have a separate July 4 travel forecast.

“Americans are going to hit the roads this summer,” Dudas said.

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Planning for a trip is more important now than ever, she said, because of coronavirus.

“The more prepared you are, the better you can enjoy your vacation,” Dudas said.

Dan Suffoletto, spokesman for Dayton-Montgomery County Public Health, said people thinking about traveling should “seriously consider whether the need to travel outweighs the risks.”

“Anything you do throughout the day can be risky,” Suffoletto said.

Things that can minimize risk while traveling include avoiding crowds, driving alone or just with the people in your household, and bringing hand sanitizer or other cleaning supplies. AAA recommends bringing gloves or sandwich baggies to put over gas pumps or remotes in a hotel room, Dudas said.

Suffoletto also suggested using contactless methods of payment when possible, at home and while traveling.

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“If you’re traveling, you should try to go to the least risky places,” Suffoletto said. “We recommend more isolated types of vacations, like camping or going to a non-crowded beach.”

Traveling to a crowded urban area in a state that has a lot of coronavirus cases is not recommended.

“Driving is safer than flying with strangers, but both have risks,” he said.

At the height of the stay-at-home order in April, the Dayton International Airport saw 80 passengers depart in a day. The airport is now seeing closer to 900 passengers a day, said spokeswoman Linda Hughes. Last year the average was closer to 2,000-2,500 passengers departing in a day.

“We are seeing more and more people come through the airport as states are slowly opening back up,” Hughes said.

Nationally, the Transportation Security Administration saw about 340,000 people this Memorial Day. Last year, about 2.5 million people went through TSA checkpoints on that day.

Because the airport is still seeing about 75% less travelers than at this time last year, Hughes said it is hard to predict how many people will travel this holiday weekend.

“We are seeing more leisure travelers,” she said.

Most airlines require passengers to wear a mask, Hughes said, and the airport encourages visitors to practice social distancing and wash their hands frequently.

Road trips have also become more economical because gas prices are about 28% lower than they were this time last year. Dudas recommended using TripTik.AAA.com to determine if rest stops, gas stations and restaurants are open along the route.

“Restaurants may be operating at reduced capacity so people should pack some snacks and drinks just in case,” Dudas said.

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Heidi Hetzel-Evans, communications manager for the Ohio Department of Natural Resources, said since Ohio’s state parks have reopened, they have been busy. Hetzel-Evans said holiday weekends are always busy with campers.

This Fourth of July weekend, many state parks are nearly completely booked, according to the state's website to book a camping site.

The Ohio Department of Natural Resources has about 9,000 sites in the campground system, Hetzel-Evans said, including primitive, electric and full-service sites. Currently about 8,500 sites have been reserved for this weekend.

“We are very happy that folks feel safe at our parks,” Hetzel-Evans said. “We know it is going to be a very busy weekend. We’ve been thoughtful about what’s open and what we have kept closed.”

Greg Guntle, of Preble County, was with his wife and five children at the beach at Hueston Woods State Park on Tuesday afternoon.

“We just came down to cool off and enjoy the water,” Guntle said.

The Guntle family frequents the state park.

“We came right until they closed and came back as soon as we were allowed to be back,” Guntle said. “We utilize the beach, the hiking trails, we rent boats and canoes from time to time … We thoroughly enjoy it.”

To go camping at an Ohio state park, people must book online. The parks have typically saved a few campsites for walk-in campers, but Hetzel-Evans said the agency isn’t doing that this year because of the coronavirus.

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The Ohio Department of Natural Resources is asking campers to practice “self-contained” camping wherever possible. Visitors to campsites or between campsites are not allowed this summer in order to keep gatherings small, Hetzel-Evans said. Showers and restrooms at Ohio’s parks are being sanitized at least three times a day, so they might not always be available.

Most camp stores will also be closed, Hetzel-Evans said.

“Things will be a little different this year, but that certainly doesn’t impact sitting around a fire or fishing or hiking,” Hetzel-Evans said.

This weekend will be a big weekend for Hocking Hills State Park in particular because the popular site will reopen July 2 after closing during the pandemic, Hetzel-Evans said.

“Dayton is great because there are so many great parks within an hour or so drive of the city,” Hetzel-Evans said. “You have great choices without taking a long trip. You can still be very close to home during the coronavirus pandemic.”

Suffoletto, with Dayton-Montgomery Public Health, said that no matter where people travel, they should try to limit their exposure to other people.

Suffoletto also said those who are traveling should be mindful that the coronavirus can set in quickly.

“Travelers should be aware that if you get sick, you might have to be hospitalized in the location you’re in,” Suffoletto said. “Are you willing to do that? Are you going to be able to stay away from your family that long if they’re not on the trip with you?”

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