Autumn-mobile: Road-Trip Season Extends to Fall


CARS.COM — Friday may mark the official end of summer, but Americans aren’t ready to cool their heels when it comes to car trips. According to a new survey from roadside-assistance provider AAA, more than a quarter of respondents have at least one more big vacation planned for fall.

Related: 10 Great Road-Trip Rides

AAA reported that 28 percent of Americans are planning to travel between Labor Day and Thanksgiving — nearly two-thirds of whom intend to do so by car — to take advantage of the benefits the months following the autumnal equinox have to offer. Here are the top three reasons for road-tripping:

3. Better value for the money, cited by 55 percent of survey participants

2. More favorable weather, 63 percent

1. Smaller crowds and fewer kids, 68 percent

“Road trips are the preferred activity for fall travelers, with 62 percent of those planning a vacation intending to pack up their cars and hit the road,” AAA said in a statement. “Thanks to milder weather, outdoor events such as fall festivals and visits to national and state parks are particularly popular with travelers this time of year.

“Twenty-six percent of those who are planning a fall vacation will take a trip to view fall foliage, a favorite pastime from the Northeast and New England to the mountains of North Carolina and Colorado.”

Most fall vacationers will stay stateside, with the top five mainland U.S. destinations including Orlando, Fla.; Anaheim, Calif.; New York City; Las Vegas; and Boston.

“We have seen strong demand for travel throughout the course of the year, and Americans are discovering that traveling the fall season is a best-kept secret,” AAA stated.

Indeed, Memorial Day 2017 was estimated to be the busiest for travel in a dozen years, while the 44.2 million Americans estimated to stray 50 miles or more from home for the Fourth of July holiday was the most in recorded history, with 84 percent of those folks opting for automobiles. AAA provided no specific forecast for Labor Day to Thanksgiving, but based on the trend, motorists should expect it to be busier than previous years.

With more travelers, of course, comes the need for more roadside rescues, as well as more crash casualties. AAA estimated that it came to the aid of some 338,000 car travelers over the Independence Day weekend, while the National Safety Council’s grim 2016 projections estimated 466 traffic deaths and 54,000 serious injuries on U.S. roadways over that three-day weekend.

While comparable fall travel figures should be considerably lower than those due to decreased traffic volume, motorists should remain aware of car-trip best practices:

  • Wear a seat belt every single time you’re in the car, as buckling up was projected to save 159 lives over the Memorial Day weekend.
  • Restrain children in age-, height- and weight-appropriate car seats.
  • Don’t drive drunk or drugged; use a designated driver if you imbibe.
  • Get plenty of sleep before a car trip, and take regular breaks to stave off fatigue.
  • Avoid distracted driving by refraining from using smartphones or other devices, even those with hands-free functions.
  • Check your vehicle’s tire pressure, wiper blades, fluid levels, lights and air conditioning before you hit the road.
  • Check for outstanding safety recalls on your car using the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s vehicle identification number lookup tool.
  • Pack an emergency roadside kit containing a mobile phone and charger, first-aid kit, flashlight, flares, jumper cables, drinking water and blankets.
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Former Assistant Managing Editor-News Matt Schmitz is a veteran Chicago journalist indulging his curiosity for all things auto while helping to inform car shoppers. Email Matt Schmitz

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