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July 2, 2020, 7:57 a.m. EDT

What a long, strange trip summer vacation will be this year

Social-distancing prudence means we’ll drive or stay at home, and we’ll use media more than ever

By Dawn Pennington


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Staying safe on the road will take on more meaning this year.

The American Automobile Association expects we will take 700 million trips this summer. That’s about 120 million, or 15%, fewer outings than we embarked on a year earlier.

That sounds like good news for the economy until you realize that 683 million of those trips will be in a car. Airlines, cruise ships, rail and other forms of mass transportation are missing out, with business expected to come in at 86% below last year’s levels.

For the 36 million people traveling in America for the Fourth of July weekend, wearing a mask might be the least strange part about their trip.

Cities are largely skipping their traditional holiday parades, festivals and concerts. Family cookouts may feature fewer people and more Beyond Meat (NAS:BYND) . And a lot of eateries — from unique, locally owned popular spots to national franchises — just aren’t there anymore.

Data from business-review app Yelp (NYS:YELP) shows that, as of mid-June, some 140,000 U.S. businesses that closed in March are still closed. And about 41% have closed for good. For restaurants, that permanently closed figure is 53%. You can imagine what that means for a big chunk of the 2.2 million restaurants that exist all over the world.

Reality check

The most-searched-for destinations on AAA’s TripTik site this spring were Denver, Las Vegas and Los Angeles. In reality, many of the folks who do decide to travel will take a “staycation” — traveling mostly locally, or at least avoiding states that require a 14-day quarantine (such as New York, New Jersey and Connecticut).

If you are hitting the road, be sure to do a reality check so you don’t hit any surprise roadblocks on the way to your destination.

Once you arrive, you’ll need a safe place to stay. May RV sales were up as much as 170% year-over-year for this very purpose. If you’re hitting up a hotel, Hilton (NYS:HLT) , for example, offers contactless check-in and digital room key technology.

If you’re looking to visit beaches, museums, etc., call ahead to see what the local ordinances are. And no matter where you are, you can enjoy socially distant holiday entertainment. These include:

• This week, Macy’s (NYS:M) is hosting several downsized fireworks displays across New York’s boroughs. These socially distanced spectaculars will be recorded and aired in a televised finale.

• PBS’s 40th annual “A Capitol Fourth” will be prerecorded but will end with live fireworks over Washington, D.C., that you can watch on TV, social media or on PBS’s website.

• Founding Fathers fans can catch “Hamilton” on Disney+ this weekend. The $75 million that Disney (NYS:DIS) spent for worldwide rights to the Broadway smash is the biggest price tag ever for a single film. And just in time, Disney+ ended its free trial membership offering.

This year doesn’t look the way any of us thought it would. All around the world, we’re hearing a lot about new coronavirus cases and hospitalizations. And we’re watching protests happening in towns large and small across America.

For many, this is an emotional time. And a sobering one. So it’s easy to feel pressured to make our holidays and weekends feel as traditional as possible.

Whatever you do, stay safe, be well and do what you can to enjoy this time of celebration,even if that means doing as little as possible.

Dawn Pennington is the editorial director at Mauldin Economics.

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