Orlando, FL…Thanksgiving will be on the lighter side when it comes to the typical number of travelers on the roads and at airports. According to AAA Travel, effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, including health concerns and high unemployment, are impacting Americans’ decisions to travel for the Thanksgiving holiday. With health and government officials stressing that staying home is the best way to protect yourself and others from getting sick, AAA anticipates at least a 10% drop in travel – the largest one-year decrease since the Great Recession in 2008.
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 (CDC) travel health notices, AAA expects the actual number of holiday travelers will be even lower.
“The wait-and-see travel trend continues to impact final travel decisions, especially for the Thanksgiving holiday,” said Paula Twidale, senior vice president, AAA Travel. “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. In addition to CDC guidance, travelers should also be aware of local and state travel restrictions, including testing requirements and quarantine orders.
|What to Know Before You Go
Road Trips Top Holiday Travel Plans
Those who decide to travel are likely to drive shorter distances and reduce the number of days they are away, making road trips the dominant form of travel this Thanksgiving. Travel by automobile is projected to fall 4.3%, to 47.8 million travelers and account for 95% of all holiday travel.
AAA reminds those hitting the road to plan their route ahead. To minimize the number of stops along the way, pack meals, extra snacks and drinks in addition to an emergency roadside kit.
Before you head out, be sure your vehicle is ready for the trip to avoid a breakdown along the way. AAA expects to rescue more than 413,000 Americans at the roadside this Thanksgiving. AAA makes it easy to request assistance – by phone, app or online – and members can track the service technician’s progress as they make their way to your vehicle.
Few Travelers to Fly and Use Other Modes of Travel
AAA anticipates Thanksgiving air travel volume will be down by nearly half of prior years – to 2.4 million travelers. This would be the largest one-year decrease on record. For these travelers, AAA notes holiday airfares are the lowest in three years. If flying, AAA reminds air travelers that in-flight amenities, including food and beverage services, may not be available. Also, as a precaution, wipe down your seat, armrest, belt buckle and tray table using disinfecting wipes.
Travel by other modes, including buses, trains and cruises, is expected to decline 76%, to 353,000 travelers, as cruise ships remain docked and more travelers opt for car trips instead of taking buses or trains.
|2020 Thanksgiving Holiday Travelers
|Other(Bus, Train, Cruise)
INRIX Predicts Wednesday Afternoon to See Peak Traffic
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.
“Though fewer people will be traveling this Thanksgiving, we expect more holiday drivers than we had over the last few holidays during COVID-19,” said Bob Pishue, Transportation Analyst at INRIX. “Drivers should plan alternate routes and departure times to avoid traffic jams.”
|Busiest Corridor per Region (Nov. 25-29)
|Peak congestion period
|Peak delay (min)
|I85 South – Decatur St to Clairemont Road
|11/25/2020 3:30 p.m.
|I93 North – Massachusetts Connector to Main St
|11/25/2020 3:15 p.m.
|I290 West – UIC to Jackson Blvd
|11/25/2020 4 p.m.
|I96 West – I-96/275 to Novi Rd
|11/25/2020 4 p.m.
|I10 West –Sjolander Rd to I-10/330
|11/25/2020 3:45 p.m.
|I5 South – Colorado Street to I-5/605
|11/25/2020 5:30 p.m.
|I95 South – Bruckner Interchange to George Washington Bdg
|11/25/2020 3:45 p.m.
|I580 East – CA-238/Hayward to 205 Interchange (Tracy)
|11/25/2020 3:45 p.m.
|I5 South – S 348th St to Tacoma Dome
|11/26/2020 1:15 p.m.
|I95 South – Springfield Interchange to Gordon Blvd
|11/27/2020 11:45 a.m.
Road Trippers to Be Met with Lower Gas Prices
Those who decide to hit the road for Thanksgiving will find cheaper gas prices. On average, gas prices nationally are nearly 50 cents cheaper than this time last year, with October averages the lowest in more than 15 years.
AAA members can fill up for even less at Shell stations when they join the Fuel Rewards® program at AAA.com/Shell Nov. 15 through Dec. 31. In addition to the five cents per gallon everyday offer, members will receive an additional 10 cents off per gallon on their first three fill-ups after joining for the first time as a Fuel Rewards® member, for a total savings of 15 cents.
AAA’s projections are based on economic forecasting and research by IHS Markit, a London-based business information provider. For the purposes of this forecast, the Thanksgiving holiday travel period is defined as the five-day period from Wednesday, Nov. 25 to Sunday, Nov. 29.
In cooperation with AAA, IHS Markit developed a unique methodology to forecast actual domestic travel volumes, using macroeconomic drivers such as employment; output; household net worth; asset prices including stock indices; interest rates; housing market indicators and variables related to travel and tourism, including prices of gasoline, airline travel and hotel stays. For the 2020 Thanksgiving holiday travel forecast, IHS Markit also examined changes in the IHS Markit containment index regarding local COVID-19-related restrictions as well as the national case count and trend.
AAA provides more than 61 million members with automotive, travel, insurance and financial services through its federation of 32 motor clubs and more than 1,000 branch offices across North America. Since 1902, the not-for-profit, fully tax-paying AAA has been a leader and advocate for safe mobility. Drivers can request roadside assistance, identify nearby gas prices, locate discounts, book a hotel or map a route via the AAA Mobile app. To join, visit AAA.com.
INRIX is the global leader in connected car services and transportation analytics. Leveraging big data and the cloud, INRIX delivers comprehensive services and solutions to help move people, cities and businesses forward. Our partners are automakers, governments, mobile operators, developers, advertisers, as well as enterprises large and small.
About IHS Markit:
IHS Markit (NYSE: INFO) is a world leader in critical information, analytics and solutions for the major industries and markets that drive economies worldwide. The company delivers next-generation information, analytics and solutions to customers in business, finance and government, improving their operational efficiency and providing deep insights that lead to well-informed, confident decisions. IHS Markit has more than 50,000 business and government customers, including 80 percent of the Fortune Global 500 and the world’s leading financial institutions. Headquartered in London, IHS Markit is committed to sustainable, profitable growth.