AAA: Fewer Americans Will Travel This Thanksgiving

November 13, 2020

The COVID-19 pandemic is expected to push down the number of Americans traveling for the Thanksgiving holiday this year by about 10%, according to AAA Travel. That’s the largest one-year decrease since the Great Recession in 2008, which lead to a 26 percent drop in travel for the holiday.

The effects of the pandemic, including health and economic concerns, are causing many Americans to opt for last-minute and vehicular travel. Air travel and other modes of transportation such as cruises, buses, and trains are the most impacted by the pandemic, and 95% of holiday travel is expected to be by car.

“Like everything else this year, Thanksgiving in 2020 will look much different than in years past,” says Bevi Powell, senior vice president, AAA Travel. “Many Americans are weighing their options and considering the advice of health experts before finalizing their holiday travel plans.”

Mid-Atlantic Region Thanksgiving Forecast (Wednesday, Nov. 25 to Sunday, Nov. 29.)
*Region includes New Jersey, New York, and Pennsylvania

Method of TravelTotal Travelers% Change from 2019
Automobile5.48 million-8.0%
Air Travel320,000-48.9%
Other (bus, train, ship, etc.)31,000-77.0%
Region Total5.83 million-13.2%


With COVID-19 cases rising in many parts of the country, AAA East Central reminds those who choose to travel for the Thanksgiving holiday to know the risks and minimize them by taking the following steps:

  • 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 restrictions.
  • Pack Smart. Be sure to pack face masks, disinfecting wipes, and hand sanitizers.
  • Minimize your risk. Use protective barriers such as plastic baggies or gloves to open doors, fill up the gas tank, or touch any other surfaces in public places. Also, try to minimize your stops, and when visiting family or friends, remember to socially distance, wear masks, and frequently wash your hands.
  • Verify before you go. Call your hotels and car rental companies to ensure your reservations and clarify requirements.
  • Use these helpful AAA resources. Visit AAA’s COVID-19 Travel Restrictions Map for the latest state and local travel restrictions. Use to plan your road trip and help determine which rest stops, gas stations, hotels, and restaurants you’ll use along your route.

Before heading out, motorists should ensure their vehicles are road trip-ready to avoid a breakdown along the way. AAA expects to rescue more than 413,000 Americans at the roadside this Thanksgiving. Motorists should take their vehicles to a trusted repair facility to perform any needed maintenance before heading out on a road trip.

INRIX Predicts Wednesday Afternoon to See Peak Traffic

Traffic volume is expected to be less than in years’ past, but travelers in major urban areas will experience increased delays at popular bottlenecks, up to 30% above normal pandemic congestion levels. INRIX expects Wednesday afternoon to see the highest volume of traffic.

About the Travel Forecast: AAA’s projections are based on economic forecasting and research by IHS Markit, a London-based business information provider. In cooperation with AAA, IHS Markit developed a unique methodology to forecast actual domestic travel volumes, using macroeconomic drivers such as employment; output; household net worth; asset prices including stock indices; interest rates; housing market indicators and variables related to travel and tourism, including prices of gasoline, airline travel and hotel stays. For the 2020 Thanksgiving holiday travel forecast, IHS Markit also examined changes in the IHS Markit containment index regarding local COVID-19-related restrictions as well as the national case count and trend.

About INRIX: INRIX is the global leader in connected car services and transportation analytics. Leveraging big data and the cloud, INRIX delivers comprehensive services and solutions to help move people, cities and businesses forward. Our partners are automakers, governments, mobile operators, developers, advertisers, as well as enterprises large and small.

About IHS Markit: IHS Markit (NYSE: INFO) is a world leader in critical information, analytics and solutions for the major industries and markets that drive economies worldwide. The company delivers next-generation information, analytics and solutions to customers in business, finance and government, improving their operational efficiency and providing deep insights that lead to well-informed, confident decisions. IHS Markit has more than 50,000 business and government customers, including 80 percent of the Fortune Global 500 and the world’s leading financial institutions. Headquartered in London, IHS Markit is committed to sustainable, profitable growth.

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