Fewer Americans will be traveling for Thanksgiving Day this year due to ongoing concerns about the coronavirus pandemic, according to AAA Mid-Atlantic.
AAA anticipates at least a 10% drop in travel this Thanksgiving Day holiday, compared to past years. This would be the largest one-year decrease for Thanksgiving travel since the Great Recession in 2008, AAA Mid-Atlantic said in a news release.
But more than 50 million Americans are still expected to venture 50 miles or more from home during the upcoming Thanksgiving Day holiday period, the news release said.
Peak traffic expected on Wednesday afternoon
Traffic volume is expected to be less than in years’ past, but travelers in major urban areas will experience increased delays at popular bottlenecks, up to 30% above normal pandemic congestion levels.
INRIX expects Wednesday afternoon to see the highest volume of traffic, according to the AAA news release.
“Though fewer people will be traveling this Thanksgiving, we expect more holiday drivers than we had over the last few holidays during COVID-19,” Bob Pishue, transportation analyst at INRIX said in the news release. “Drivers should plan alternate routes and departure times to avoid traffic jams.”
The effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, including health concerns and high unemployment, are impacting Americans’ decisions to travel for the Thanksgiving holiday.
“The upshot is, fewer Americans will be heading to grandmother’s and grandfather’s house this Thanksgiving, as the ongoing coronavirus pandemic spawns broad disruptions in holiday travel plans,” the news release said.
“With health and government officials stressing that staying home is the best way to protect yourself and others from getting sick. As the holiday approaches, AAA expects Americans will monitor the public health landscape to make final travel decisions.”
Road trips top holiday travel plans
Of those who do decide to travel, 95% will travel by car, AAA estimates, but they are likely to drive shorter distances and reduce the number of days they are away, according to the AAA news release.
AAA anticipates Thanksgiving air travel will see the largest one-year decrease on record.
Travel by other modes, including buses, trains and cruises, is expected to decline at least 76%, to 353,000 travelers, the AAA news release said.
Based on mid-October forecast models, AAA would have expected up to 50 million Americans to travel for Thanksgiving – a drop from 55 million in 2019.
However, as the holiday approaches and Americans monitor the public health landscape, including rising COVID-19 positive case numbers, renewed quarantine restrictions and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s travel health notices, AAA expects the actual number of holiday travelers could be the lowest we have seen in years, the news release said.
“The wait-and-see travel trend continues to impact final travel decisions, especially for the Thanksgiving holiday,” Paula Twidale, senior vice president, AAA Travel, said in the news release. “The decision to travel is a personal one. For those who are considering making a trip, the majority will go by car, which provides the flexibility to modify holiday travel plans up until the day of departure.”
For Americans who make the personal decision to travel for the holiday, it is important to know the risks involved and ways to keep yourself and others safe, according to AAA.
In addition to CDC guidance, travelers should also be aware of local and state travel restrictions, including testing requirements and quarantine orders.
“Now is not the time to be hardheaded, or softhearted, or to throw caution to the wind. With cause and concern, public health and government officials are warning: ‘Staying at home is the best way to protect yourself and your kith and kin from the Novel Coronavirus Disease 2019 outbreak’ during the impending holiday season. Caution and preparation are the ‘order of the day’ for those intrepid souls opting to travel this Thanksgiving Day holiday season,” John B. Townsend II, AAA Mid-Atlantic’s manager of public and government affairs, said in the news release.
What to know before you go
If you are traveling, AAA offers the following advice:
- Plan ahead. Check with state and local authorities where you are, along your route, and at your planned destination to learn about local circumstances and any restrictions that may be in place.
- Follow public health guidance. Consistent use of face masks combined with social distancing (at least 6 feet) and regular handwashing are the best ways to lower your risk of contracting COVID-19. Be sure to pack face masks, disinfecting wipes, hand sanitizer and a thermometer to help protect and monitor your health. Also pack water and extra snacks to reduce the need to stop along your trip.
- Verify before you go. Call ahead to minimize any last-minute surprises.
- Hotels: Prior to any hotel stay, call ahead to ensure your hotel is open and ask what precautions they are taking to protect guests. Ask about social-distancing protocols like capacity reductions in common spaces, hotel staff requirements to wear masks at all times and if all amenities are available, like restaurant dining.
- Car rentals: If renting a car, ask what has been done to clean the vehicle. For extra peace of mind, use disinfecting wipes to wipe down door handles, steering wheels, shifters and control panels.