Thanksgiving 2020: AAA predicts that 50 million Americans will travel for holiday


Beep, beep!

AAA Travel has released the results of its annual Thanksgiving travel report, projecting less than 50 million Americans will hit the road for the holiday this year. While that stat might seem high for Turkey Day amid the ongoing outbreak of COVID-19, the figure marks the most dramatic one-year drop since the Great Recession in 2008.

AAA published the predictions in a Thursday report, using economic forecasting and research from IHS Markit to make the calculations. The findings defined this year’s “Thanksgiving holiday travel period” as the five-day stretch from Wednesday, Nov. 25 to Sunday, Nov. 29.   

Notably, the auto membership group declined to cite an exact number of people expected to travel in the U.S. on Thanksgiving, citing the ever-evolving nature of the current outbreak.

“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,” the group said. “However, as the holiday approaches and Americans monitor the public health landscape, including rising COVID-19 positive case numbers, renewed quarantine restrictions and CDC travel health notices, AAA expects the actual number of holiday travelers will be even lower.”

With millions sticking closer to home on Turkey Day to protect loved ones both within and beyond their household, AAA foresees at least a 10% drop in travel, which would be the greatest year-over-year decrease since the economy plunged in 2008.

“The wait-and-see travel trend continues to impact final travel decisions, especially for the Thanksgiving holiday,” said Paula Twidale, senior vice president of 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 those celebrating outside of their home, traveling by car is expected to be the most popular mode of transit, with 47.8 million travelers to hitting the road and accounting for 95% of all holiday travel.

In a wise word of advice, AAA has advised those driving to their Thanksgiving table to plan ahead and pack snacks, drinks and an emergency roadside kit to minimize stops and reduce contact with others.

Nevertheless, you can’t plan for everything – AAA expects to rescue 413,000 stranded drivers on the roadside this Thanksgiving.

For those flying to see family and friends, commercial air travel will be dramatically down with just 2.4 million hitting the high skies for their Thanksgiving plans, AAA said, in the largest one-year drop on record. Holiday airfares, meanwhile, are said to be at their lowest in three years. Turkey Day travel by bus, train and cruise is expected to drop a whopping 76%, to just 353,000 travelers, this holiday.