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AAA projects the lowest number of Thanksgiving travelers since the Great Recession


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BOISE – With the holidays coming up and the COVID-19 pandemic still affecting lives across the country, many people have been forced to change their plans for the Thanksgiving season.

AAA projects the number of travelers for Thanksgiving will be reduced by at least 10% due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. Over the last 11 years, the number of travelers during the holiday season had grown annually, but that isn’t expected to be the case this year. Experts are predicting the lowest number of travelers since the Great Recession between 2007 and 2009.

If the pandemic wasn’t an issue, it had been expected that 50 million Americans — including 266,000 Idahoans — would have traveled for Thanksgiving. But due to COVID-19 that will be significantly less.

“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.”

AAA would like to remind those who are considering travel that staying home and avoiding large-group gatherings is the best way to prevent the virus from spreading.

“Those who make the very personal decision to travel should exercise special caution,” Conde said in a news release.

The amount of those traveling by air will be nearly half of what it has been from previous years. However, due to the fact that many airlines scale back the number of available seats to incorporate social distancing, availability on flights may still be hard to find.

Most will skip other forms of travel. Cruises are still closed, and AAA estimated only 353,000 Americans will travel by bus or train, which is a drop of 76%.

AAA reminds everyone to review AAA COVID-19 map and the AAA COVID-19 information for updates on areas they may be going through.

“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.”

Whether traveling on the road, in the air, staying in a hotel, etc., remember to plan wisely and look ahead to make sure the trip is safe. For example, AAA advises double-checking hotel availability and cleaning processes. Some cleaning services may only be offered when specifically requested.

“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.”