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COVID-19: AAA Provides Outlook On How Much Thanksgiving Travel Will Drop Amid Pandemic

There will be fewer travelers on the road this year during the Thanksgiving holiday.
There will be fewer travelers on the road this year during the Thanksgiving holiday. Photo Credit: Pixabay

Millions of Americans won’t be hitting the road or flying out to celebrate Thanksgiving with friends and family this year as the country continues combating the new surge in COVID-19 cases.

With the country setting daily record highs for new cases, AAA said that they are expecting at least a 10 percent drop in travel this holiday season as Americans hunker down to avoid the spreading or contracting virus.

According to AAA, their mid-October forecast model determined that approximately 50 million Americans are expected to travel for Thanksgiving in 2020, down from 55 million a year ago.

Road trips are likely to be the dominant form of travel during the holidays, though travel by automobile is expected to drop approximately 4.3 percent, with 47.8 million expected to hit the road.

Comparatively, Thanksgiving air travel is expected to be down by nearly half, to around 2.4 million travelers, marking the largest one-year decrease on record, despite airfares at the lowest they’ve been in years.


“If flying, AAA reminds air travelers that in-flight amenities, including food and beverage services, may not be available,” officials said in a statement. “Also, as a precaution, wipe down your seat, armrest, belt buckle, and tray table using disinfecting wipes.”

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 percent above normal pandemic congestion levels.

INRIX, which specializes in car services and transportation analytics expects Wednesday afternoon to see the highest volume of traffic.

“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. “Drivers should plan alternate routes and departure times to avoid traffic jams.”

Despite the forecast, Paula Twidale, AAA’s senior vice president, said that those numbers may fluctuate as many are taking a “wait-and-see” approach to potential holiday travels depending on the course the virus takes.

“The wait-and-see travel trend continues to impact final travel decisions, especially for the Thanksgiving holiday,” she said. “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.”

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