AAA projects major cuts in holiday travel this year as most Americans will stay home.
The auto club expects as many as 84.5 million Americans will travel this year. But that’s a 29 percent cut from 2019, down by 29 million travelers. AAA expects 2 million Tennesseans will travel this holiday season, a decline of 28.4 percent from last year.
“While Thanksgiving is traditionally spent gathering with friends and family, the year-end holidays are when Americans often venture out for longer, more elaborate vacations,” said AAA spokeswoman Megan Cooper. “That will not be the case this year. Public health concerns, official guidance not to travel, and an overall decline in consumer sentiment have encouraged the vast majority of Americans to stay home for the holidays.”
AAA projected Thanksgiving travel to be down 10 percent (50 million travelers) from 2019. While the final numbers aren’t in yet, the club expects the figure to be down by 15 percent-20 percent.
AAA hedges, too, that many American travelers are taking a wait-and-see approach to their plans this year.
”With COVID‑19 cases steadily increasing this month, the expected continued rise will likely prompt some Americans to make last minute decisions to not follow through with upcoming travel plans, which was the trend during the lead up to Thanksgiving,” the club said.
AAA expects those who do venture out this year, they’ll do it on the road. Road trips will account for 96 percent of holiday travel this year, the club said. Up to 81 million Americans will travel by car, a decline of at least 25 percent compared to last year. Auto travel is expected to replace some trips previously taken by bus, train or airplane, given the flexibility, security and comfort traveling by car provides.
For those who decide to hit the road for the year-end holidays, gas prices remain nearly 50 cents cheaper than this time last year. Recent monthly gas prices are 19 percent below 2019 averages.
“Typically, cheaper gas prices are an incentive for last-minute trips, especially around the holidays,” said Cooper. “But the lower prices and less traffic aren’t driving decisions to hit the road. Americans are looking to the public health landscape, including COVID-19 case numbers, to make their travel decisions.”
However, many will still travel by air, AAA said. But the 2.9 million expected to fly this year will be 60 percent fewer than those who flew during the holidays last year. Air travelers can likely expect to pay lower airfares this holiday season, as AAA said it has seen double-digit reductions in average flight costs.
Up to 480,000 Americans are expected to travel by other modes, including bus and train this holiday season, a sharp decline of 87 percent as some bus and train trips will be shifted to car travel or canceled.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has urged Americans not to travel for the holidays this year, warning that travel increases the chance of getting and spreading COVID-19. But here’s what AAA suggest for those who will travel:
What to Know Before You Go
Plan ahead. Check with state and local officials along your route and at your destination to learn about local guidance and any restrictions that may be in place. This includes what is expected of you when you return home. Many localities are requiring COVID-19 testing prior to and after travel.
Follow Public Health Guidance:
The CDC recommends taking a COVID-19 test one to three days before travel and another three to five days after travel, plus reducing nonessential activities for seven days after travel. Travelers should be aware of these and other local and state travel restrictions, including testing requirements, quarantine orders, and additional CDC guidance for before, during, and after their travels.
Consistent use of face masks combined with social distancing (at least 6 feet) and regular hand-washing 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.
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. Hertz, for example, has introduced Hertz Gold Standard Clean, an enhanced vehicle disinfectant and sanitization process. For extra peace of mind, use disinfecting wipes to wipe down door handles, steering wheels, shifters and control panels.