AAA: Fewer Americans Traveling This Thanksgiving Amid Pandemic

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, SVP, 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.”

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.

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.

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
Automobile Air Other
(Bus, Train, Cruise)
2020 47.8M 2.4M 353,000
2019 49.9M 4.58M 1.5M
Change -4.3% -47.5% -76.2%

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