Thanksgiving Travel in U.S. to Dip 10 Percent, Largest Decrease Since 2008 Recession

Thanksgiving Travel in U.S. to Dip 10 Percent, Largest Decrease Since 2008 Recession

Vacation News » Miami Edition | By Michael Gerrity | November 25, 2020 9:00 AM ET

Rising COVID cases and renewed quarantine restrictions dampen 2020 travel demand

According to AAA Travel, Thanksgiving will be on the lighter side when it comes to the typical number of travelers on U.S. roads and airports.

AAA reports the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, including health concerns and high unemployment, are impacting Americans' decisions to travel for the 2020 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."

Those who decide to travel by car 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 also 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. AAA further reports in-flight amenities, including food and beverage services, may not be available.

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.

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