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Future of Travel

Embracing the Return of the Great American Road Trip

Photo: Courtesy of Emma Francis

It is shaping up to be a busy year for vacationers and the travel industry alike. More than 136 million Americans are planning to take at least one vacation in 2017, and approximately one-third say they are more likely to travel this year compared with 2016.

While there are amazing experiences and exotic locales across the globe, research indicates that most Americans are eager to explore domestic destinations. Among the millions of people who plan to travel this year, nearly two-thirds say they will stay within the United States. With 50 uniquely different states and one federal district, there is much to explore within our great nation.

Hitting the road

Gas prices are hovering around $2.30 nationally, which is about 60 cents more than last year. However, these slightly higher prices are not deterring Americans’ road trip plans. With a resurging interest in visiting U.S. locations, we can confidently say that the great American road trip is back.

With a cold winter not far in the rearview mirror, warm-weather sites remain the most popular. Top domestic destinations include Orlando, Fort Lauderdale, Anaheim, Miami and Las Vegas. Road trips — particularly with stops at national parks and theme parks in Florida and southern California — are the most desired type of vacations for families planning to travel this year.

Natural beauty

Last year, the National Park Service celebrated its 100th anniversary, following all-time record visitation in 2015. That year, the parks welcomed more than 307 million visitors to 417 parks, historical sites, monuments and recreation areas. Thirty-seven percent of Americans say they are more likely to visit a national park through the first half of this year, building on the momentum of last year’s centennial celebrations.

While the Great Smoky Mountains, Grand Canyon and Rocky Mountains remain the most popular national park destinations, I recommend travelers check out some of the lesser-known locales. Consider Cuyahoga Valley in Ohio, Black Canyon of the Gunnison in Colorado or Shenandoah National Park in Virginia to avoid heavy crowds and enjoy a deeper connection with the beauty and natural surroundings of these national treasures.

Regardless of your destination, I wish you a safe and enjoyable road trip. Now, get out there and explore from sea to shining sea.

Bill Sutherland, Senior Vice President, Travel and Publishing, AAA, [email protected]

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