Fewer Washingtonians Traveling This Thanksgiving amid Pandemic

Nov 12, 2020

AAA advises caution and preparation for those who decide to travel

(Editor’s Note: All local data is bold)

BELLEVUE, Wash. — Thanksgiving travel will be on the lighter side when it comes to the number of people on the roads and at airports. According to AAA Travel, the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, including health concerns and high unemployment, are influencing the decisions Americans’ make about travel for the upcoming holiday. As health and government officials stress staying home as the best way to protect yourself and others from getting sick, AAA anticipates a drop in travel of at least 10%  – the largest one-year decrease since the Great Recession in 2008.

Using mid-October forecast models, AAA had expected up to 50 million Americans would travel for Thanksgiving, a drop from 55 million in 2019. Of those 50 million, AAA had anticipated close to 1.19 million travelers from Washington, down from 1.37 million in 2019.

Since the data was collected, the rising number of COVID-19 positive case numbers, renewed quarantine restrictions and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) travel health notices, AAA expects the actual number of holiday travelers to drop even lower.

“The wait-and-see travel trend continues to impact final travel decisions, especially for the Thanksgiving holiday,” said Kelly Just, AAA Washington’s public relations manager. “The decision to travel is a personal one. For those who decide to make a trip, the majority will go by car, which provides the flexibility to modify holiday travel plans up until the day of departure.”

Road Trips Top Holiday Travel Plans

AAA predicts road trips to make up 95% of this year’s Thanksgiving holiday travel. In addition to being able to drive shorter distances and reduce the number of days they are away from home, travelers who decide to take a road trip can cash in on cheaper gas prices across the Pacific Northwest.

Washington’s average gas price sits at $2.76/gallon, 65 cents less than this time last year. Idaho’s average price dropped 69 cents from last year to $2.31/gallon. Oregon has seen the largest year-to-year drop of 73 cents to a current average price of $2.58.

AAA reminds those hitting the road to plan their route ahead. To minimize the number of stops along the way, pack meals, extra snacks and drinks in addition to an emergency roadside kit.

Before you head out, be sure your vehicle is ready for the trip to avoid a breakdown along the way. AAA expects to rescue more than 413,000 Americans at the roadside this Thanksgiving. AAA makes it easy to request assistance – by phone, app or online – and members can track the service technician’s progress as they make their way to your vehicle.

Few Travelers to Fly and Use Other Travel Modes

AAA anticipates Thanksgiving air travel volume will be down by nearly half of prior years – to 2.4 million travelers. This would be the largest one-year decrease on record. For these travelers, AAA notes holiday airfares are the lowest in three years. If flying, AAA reminds air travelers that in-flight amenities, including food and beverage services, may not be available. Also, as a precaution, wipe down your seat, armrest, belt buckle and tray table using disinfecting wipes.

Travel by other modes, including buses, trains and cruises, is expected to decline 76%, to 353,000 travelers, as cruise ships remain docked and more travelers opt for car trips instead of taking buses or trains.

Preparing to Travel

No matter how they reach their destinations, Washingtonians who make the personal decision to travel for the holiday need to know the risks involved and ways to keep themselves and others safe. In addition to CDC guidance, travelers should also be aware of local and state travel restrictions, including testing requirements and quarantine orders.

What to Know Before You Go
  • 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.
  • Follow Public Health Guidance. Consistent use of face masks combined with social distancing (at least 6 feet) and regular handwashing 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.
  • Helpful AAA Resources. Visit AAA’s COVID-19 Travel Restrictions Map for the latest state and local travel restrictions. Use AAA.com to plan your road trip and help determine which rest stops, gas stations, restaurants and hotels are open along your route.
  • Verify Before You Go. Call ahead to minimize any last minute surprises.
    • 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. 

Methodology:
AAA’s projections are based on economic forecasting and research by IHS Markit, a London-based business information provider. For the purposes of this forecast, the Thanksgiving holiday travel period is defined as the five-day period from Wednesday, Nov. 25 to Sunday, Nov. 29.

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 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.

Media Contact

Jennifer Cook
Senior Manager, Corporate Communications
425-646-2055
JenniferCook@aaawa.com

Kelly Just
Manager, Public Relations
425-467-7740
KellyJust@aaawa.com

Location
Bellevue Corporate Office
3605 132nd Ave. SE
Bellevue, WA 98006

AAA National Newsroom
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AAA National Exchange
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About AAA Washington:

AAA Washington has been serving members and the traveling public since 1904. The organization provides a variety of exclusive benefits, including roadside assistance, discounts, maps and personalized trip planning, to its million plus members. In addition, its full-service travel and insurance agencies provide products and services for members and the public. Additional information is available through the company’s offices in Washington and northern Idaho, at www.AAA.com, or by calling 1-800-562-2582.

AAA Washington Media Contacts

Kelly Just | 425-647-1594
Jennifer Cook | 425-301-9075
Twitter: @AAA_Washington
Facebook: AAA Washington

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