AAA: Thanksgiving Travel Expected to Drop 10 Percent due to Pandemic

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Thanksgiving travel will be on the lighter side this year due to the coronavirus pandemic.

AAA projects a drop of at least 10 percent with travel volume shrinking to the lowest point since the Great Recession in 2008, and the end of 11 years of travel growth for the holiday weekend. Most will wait until the last-minute to decide whether to take a Thanksgiving trip.

Based on mid-October data, AAA would have expected 50 million Americans including 742,000 Oregonians heading over the river and through the woods for turkey and all the trimmings this year. But a recent rise in the number of COVID-19 cases, renewed quarantine restrictions, and relatively high unemployment mean that the actual turnout could be even lower.

With health and government officials stressing that staying home and avoiding social gatherings is the best way to protect yourself and others from getting sick, AAA advises travelers to exercise caution.

The Thanksgiving holiday period is defined as Wednesday, Nov. 25 to Sunday, Nov. 29.

Vast Majority to Travel by Car

AAA projects 95 percent of travelers (47.8 million Americans) will drive to their Thanksgiving destination. This is a 4.3 percent drop from 2019.

In Oregon, roughly 637,000 travelers will drive.

“Many would-be Thanksgiving travelers are taking a wait-and-see approach. For those who are considering a trip, most will go by car which provides flexibility leading up to the day of departure,” says Marie Dodds, public affairs director for AAA Oregon/Idaho.

Gas Prices Significantly Lower than Last Year

Those who decide to hit the road for Thanksgiving will find the cheapest gas prices for the holiday since 2016. The national average for regular is about 50 cents a gallon less than last year, and the Oregon average is about 70 cents less.

Peak Traffic Expected Wednesday Afternoon

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

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