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COVID-19 prompts travel changes


Health officials continue to urge Americans to avoid all non-essential domestic travel to help slow of the spread of the coronavirus. As Gov. Steve Bullock outlines a plan to slowly reopen the state, much of which is already in effect, the 14-day self-quarantine for all out-of-state travel remains in place. The directive, which applies to both residents and nonresidents, allows for the exemption of travelers coming and leaving the state for work related purposes.

As the weather gets warmer and we see summer on the horizon, many people who have been doing their part to stay home and social distance are now hoping to get out on the road in the foreseeable future.

It may just be a coincidence that restrictions in Montana are being lifted right in time for Memorial Day Weekend, but Montanan’s need for exploration might have them planning a mini road trip as the long weekend approaches.

As Memorial Day nears, many will wonder if they will see the usual crowds this holiday brings. According to Aldo Vazquez, Montana spokesperson for the American Automobile Association (AAA), it’s a very interesting time for travel.

“For the first time in 20 years, AAA will not issue a Memorial Day travel forecast, as the accuracy of the economic data used to create the forecast has been undermined by COVID-19,” Vazquez said in a news release sent to The Ledger.

Anecdotal reports done by AAA suggest fewer people will be out on the roads for the summer traveling season compared to last.

“Last year, 43 million Americans traveled for Memorial Day Weekend – the second highest travel volume on record since AAA began tracking holiday travel volumes in 2000,” Vazquez stated. “With physical distancing guidelines still in practice, this holiday weekend’s travel volume is likely to set a record low.”

If you are planning an upcoming road trip, now more than ever, preparation is key, according to AAA. Research for your trip will need to be taken a step further. Be prepared to run into some temporary closures as you map out your trip. If you do plan to venture outside of Montana, make note of the states you will be passing through and be aware of current travel advisories.

For travelers who choose to fly domestically or travel by train, a directive from the governor states there will be temperature checks and screenings for potential exposure history that may be conducted by the Montana National Guard to further protect against the spread of COVID-19.

Preventative measures should be taken regardless of where you travel, to help prevent the spread of the coronavirus. Washing your hands frequently, not touching your face, sneezing and coughing into your elbow, and cleaning and disinfecting all frequently touched objects and surfaces should all be maintained when traveling. Keep in mind, several businesses are now requiring their customers to wear a face mask upon entering the establishment.

One more consideration to look at, would be your car. While Americans all stayed home during the shelter-in-place, so did our vehicles. Before heading out on the road, make sure to check all fluids, battery life, and tire pressure to ensure your vehicle is ready for summer travel.

The Centers for Disease Prevention and Control (CDC), recommends that all Americans stay home and avoid all non-essential travel. However, during this time, as restrictions are lifted, planning ahead with the proper research and referring to the CDC for all official warnings as well as state travel alerts, will allow you to travel and help decrease the spread of COVID-19 at the same time.

If this upcoming holiday you plan to stay home, rest easy knowing there is a light at the end of the tunnel. Per AAA, “there are indications that Americans’ wanderlust is inspiring them to plan for future trips.” AAA has seen a modest rise in online bookings since mid-April. “When it is safe to travel, AAA Montana expects vacationers will gravitate to road trips and family bookings to destinations in the United States, Canada and Mexico. Shortly thereafter, assuming international travel restrictions are lifted, we expect to see demand for a wider range of international travel.”

“The saying goes that the journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step. Americans are taking that first step towards their next journey from the comfort of their home by researching vacation opportunities and talking with travel agents,” said Vazquez. “We are seeing that Americans are showing a preference and inspiration to explore all that our country has to offer as soon as it is safe to travel.”


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