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If you're planning to take a road trip, remember these tips while traveling. USA TODAY

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Americans will take 150 million fewer trips this summer because of the coronavirus pandemic, a decline of nearly 15% from last year, according to AAA.

However, AAA forecasts people will hit the road this summer in numbers very close to recent years. AAA projects 683 million road trips from July to September. That's only a 3% decline from last summer and a 0.4% decline from summer 2018.

The automobile club has issued summer travel forecasts for years. But this year, because of the coronavirus outbreak, it did not make a projection for Memorial Day, the customary beginning of the summer travel season.

AAA projects a total of 707 million trips this summer, including road, air and rail. The vast majority of trips this summer – 96.5% – will be by car, AAA says.

Paula Twidale, AAA's senior vice president for travel, said Americans are more likely to book weekend getaways than extended vacations, places they can drive to instead of flying.

"When they do venture out, the greatest share of travelers," she said, "will take to the road to satisfy their wanderlust."

What to plan for: Road trips won't be the same this summer amid coronavirus pandemic

Airlines and Amtrak are operating at reduced capacity. AAA forecasts that air travel this summer will be down 74% from last year. 

Though air travel has rebounded since falling more than 90% in April, it remains down roughly 80% over last June. According to the Transportation Security Administration, 471,421 travelers went through airport security checkpoints on Tuesday, down from more than 2.5 million on June 23, 2019.

Other modes, including bus, rail and cruise ships, are expected to be down 86%, according to AAA. 

Cruise companies have generally canceled their sailings through September after Cruise Lines International Association, a trade group, voluntarily extended its pause on cruise sailings through Sept. 15.

Road trippers should continue to benefit from gasoline prices lower than what they were paying last summer, though prices have increased in recent weeks. The national average price this week is $2.15 a gallon, according to AAA, down from $2.66 a year ago, but up from $1.95 a month ago.

AAA said its travel experts have noticed a rebound in hotel and car rental bookings since April.

Searches for destinations on AAA's popular TripTik planner, which includes coronavirus restrictions, show less interest in places that draw large crowds. Denver, Las Vegas, Los Angeles, Seattle and Phoenix are the top five most searched. Portland, Oregon; Myrtle Beach, South Carolina; Orlando, Florida; San Diego; and Nashville, Tennessee, round out the top 10.

Summer travelers should monitor for evolving coronavirus restrictions as an announcement Wednesday by the governors of New York, New Jersey and Connecticut underscores. The states are now requiring a 14-day quarantine for visitors from other states where coronavirus cases are on the rise, and some other states have traveler quarantine requirements, as well.

The nation's leading public health officials warn Americans to be cautious when making their summer travel plans. Francis Collins, the director of the National Institutes of Health, told USA TODAY's editorial board Tuesday that he's postponing a family beach vacation to South Carolina due to the recent increase in coronavirus cases in the state.

"As a grandfather and a guy who hoped to have a beach week with my grandkids and my daughters coming up in about a month, we're not doing it," he said. 

Still, other public health experts say travelers can protect themselves. Road trips and camping trips are less risky than air, rail or bus travel because travelers can limit their interactions with other people, Joseph Khabbaza, a pulmonary and critical care physician at the Cleveland Clinic, told USA TODAY.

"Distancing isn’t always possible to the extent you’d like," Khabbaza said of the confined spaces on planes, trains and buses. "That’s not going to go away as long as the virus is around."

Contributing: David Oliver, USA TODAY

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