Thanksgiving Travel to Hit Lowest Point Since the Great Recession
BOISE – It’s a sign of the times – AAA projects that the number of Thanksgiving travelers will be reduced by at least ten percent this year due to the effects of the pandemic.
That’s the lowest travel volume since the Great Recession, and the end of 11 straight years of travel growth for the holiday weekend.
The Thanksgiving holiday period is defined as the five days from Wednesday, November 25 to Sunday, November 29.
While many Americans may have the disposable income for a holiday getaway, consumer confidence is in limbo, and travel restrictions or health and safety concerns will discourage a large number from doing so.
AAA reminds travelers that staying home and avoiding large-group gatherings is the best way to prevent the spread of sickness. Those who make the very personal decision to travel should exercise special caution.
“Conditions are changing rapidly, so we would expect most Thanksgiving travel this year to involve shorter distances and the flexibility that you get with a last-minute road trip,” says Matthew Conde, public affairs director for AAA Idaho. “A common theme will be ‘wait and see,’ but some people who have been separated from family for months will decide that this is the time to get together.”
By the numbers
mid-October data, AAA would have expected a ten percent decrease in travel, with 50 million Americans taking a trip for turkey and all the trimmings this year and 266,000 Idahoans among them. But a recent rise in the number of COVID-19 cases means that the actual turnout could be even lower.
“Last year, 89 percent of travelers made a Thanksgiving journey by car, but this year, it will be closer to 95 percent,” Conde said. “That means that the airports won’t be nearly as crowded, but the roads could still be busy at times, particularly on Tuesday afternoon when holiday travelers co-mingle with commuters during the evening rush hour.”
Thanksgiving air travel will be down by nearly half from previous years. But during the pandemic, airlines have also scaled back the number of available seats. Passengers who wait until the last minute to book a flight could face limited selection or expensive prices for the few remaining seats.
Most Americans plan to skip other modes of travel during the holiday weekend. The cruise industry remains closed, and just 353,000 people are expected to travel by bus or train for the holiday – a decrease of nearly 76 percent.
On the road
Before setting out, review AAA’s COVID-19 information and the AAA COVID-19 map for the latest updates on restrictions in the areas you’ll be visiting and passing through.
Drivers should plan their meals and rest breaks ahead of time. Some rest areas may be closed, and dine-in options could be greatly reduced. Pack plenty of snacks and water, just in case.
“You’re going to win half the battle by completing a pre-trip inspection of your vehicle,” Conde explained. “Make sure your tires, battery and engine are roadworthy, and that your windshield wipers are doing the job without skipping or streaking. And whether you’re going across the country or around the block, this is the right time of year to refresh your emergency kit.”
Typical emergency kit items include a flashlight with extra batteries, flares or reflective triangles, blankets and extra warm clothing, a first aid kit, some basic tools, and jumper cables.
Before you go, check traffic cameras and weather conditions along your route. If you’re on a snowy or icy road that has not been properly maintained, find an alternate route or wait for conditions to improve. Even if you’re prepared, drivers around you may not be, which could lead to a collision.
In the air
“You may not see the usual big crowds at the airport, but getting through security could still be an ordeal, especially now that some locations are checking passengers’ temperatures and reviewing COVID-19 test results,” Conde said. “Make sure you arrive early, and once you’ve completed the screening process, reward yourself with a meal or by checking out a free exhibit. Always maintain social distancing, even in security lines and while boarding a plane.”
At the hotel
Double-check the hotel’s availability, refund policies, and cleaning processes during the pandemic. Pools, spas and fitness centers could be closed or restricted, and continental breakfasts are ly to be simple, pre-packaged items.
Housekeeping services to clean the room and change the linens may not be offered unless specifically requested.
When you arrive, use disinfectant wipes to clean high-touch areas remote controls, doorknobs, faucets, telephones, and light switches.
“Perhaps the most important thing to pack this Thanksgiving is your patience,” Conde said. “The pandemic, the election, and other matters are weighing heavy on everyone’s minds, and holiday travel can be stressful to begin with. Show extra courtesy and compassion to your fellow travelers. We all have a part to play in keeping each other safe.”
MA 2020 Thanksgiving Travel Guide: 95% Will Travel By Car
Volume on American roads is still expected to be 30 percent higher this week than in a typical week, with more people opting to travel by car this Thanksgiving. (Dave Copeland/Patch)
MASSACHUSETTS — The day before Thanksgiving started with relatively few delays on Boston-area highways. Meanwhile, there were few travelers at Logan Airport early on the morning of what has traditionally been the busiest travel day of the year.
That's because AAA is predicting a 10 percent decrease in Thanksgiving travel this year thanks to the coronavirus pandemic. But that still means more than 50 million people will be hitting the road and heading to the airport this week.
Latest Boston-Area Highway Conditions
Last updated at 3:20 p.m. on Nov. 25.
- Massachusetts State Police said Wednesday they would deploy extra patrols on state highways over the holiday weekend (11:50 a.m.).
- The left two lanes have reopened on I-93 south, just before Exit 10 in Milton after a three-car crash. Traffic is backed up to the O'Neil Tunnel (11:19 a.m.).
- An earlier crash on Route 128 southbound in Newton has been cleared. All lanes are open, but there are heavy residual delays (10:10 a.m.).
It's the biggest one-year drop in AAA's annual holiday travel forecast since 2008's Great Recession and comes on the heels of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention saying people should stay home this year. The CDC's latest guidance has a list of questions to ask before making a trip.
But volume on America's roads is still expected to be 30 percent higher this week than in a typical week, with more people opting to travel by car. So if you do end up traveling this week, we have you covered. We'll be updating this story through Wednesday with the latest on travel conditions in New England.
If you plan to travel from the Boston area and want to avoid the rush, be aware that the peak travel time is expected to be at 3:15 p.m., Wednesday, especially on Interstate 93 northbound.
AAA is expecting 95 percent of all holiday travel to be done by car this year. Those who are driving will go shorter average distances than in non-pandemic years, AAA said. They'll also find cheaper gas prices, with the average national price per gallon down nearly 50 cents from a year ago.
If you have flexibility on when you leave, search trends on Google Maps says the best time to start a pre-Thanksgiving road trip from Boston is at 3 a.m. Wednesday. For return trips leaving Boston after the holiday, the best time to leave is at 5 a.m. Sunday, and the worst time to leave is 3 p.m. Sunday.
The map below shows real-time traffic conditions courtesy of Waze. You can use the search box at the bottom of the map to customize it to your travel plans. We'll also update this section with news of major backups as we hear about them:
Here are some things to keep in mind as you plan your trip:
- MassDOT will extend the hours of its high-occupancy vehicles lanes heading into the holiday weekend. The outbound HOV lane between Boston and Quincy on Interstate 93 South will be open between 2 p.m. and 8 p.m. on Tuesday and from 1 p.m. to 8 p.m. on Wednesday. The lane will be closed Thursday and Friday and return to normal hours next Monday.
Planes, Trains and Other Modes Of Travel
Logan Airport in Boston was quiet Wednesday morning, on what has traditionally been one of the busiest travel days of the year (Dave Copeland/Patch).The pandemic means Thanksgiving air travel will drop by 48 percent this year, AAA said.
Here are some resources for air travelers coming to and leaving from Boston's Logan International Airport:
- Monitor massport.com for updated airline and airport information and Transportation Security Administration carry-on luggage regulations.
The Massport website allows travelers to check flight status, parking conditions and public transportation options from their smartphone or tablet. Massport also encourages travelers to check with their airlines before heading to the airport for the most updated flight status and travel information.
- Coronavirus testing is now available at Logan Airport's Terminal E arrivals area. The testing facility, known as XPresCheck, is offering a polymerase chain reaction (PCR) or nasal swab test, a blood antibody test, and will soon offer the rapid test.
The MBTA will run a regular, weekday scheduled on Wednesday. On Thursday, there will be no ferry service and the rest of the system will run on a Sunday schedule.
Tips For All Travelers
Massachusetts is asking all out-of-state visitors to self-quarantine for 14 days or produce a negative coronavirus test when they arrive. Travelers arriving at Logan International Airport will be asked to fill out a form.
AAA offered the following suggestions for those traveling this holiday season:
- Plan ahead. Check with state and local authorities where you are, along your route, and at your planned destination to learn about local circumstances and any restrictions that may be in place.
- Minimize stops along the way. Pack meals, extra snacks and drinks in addition to an emergency roadside kit.
- Follow public health guidance. Use face masks and remember to socially distance. Wash your hands regularly and be sure to pack disinfecting wipes, hand sanitizer and a thermometer to help protect and monitor your health.
- Check with your hotel. Prior to any hotel stay, call ahead to ensure your hotel is open and ask what precautions it is taking and what requirements are in place to protect guests.
Dave Copeland writes for Patch and can be reached at email@example.com or by calling 617-433-7851. Follow him on (@CopeWrites) and (/copewrites).