Less Holiday Travel Anticipated

WRVA News
December 17, 2020 - 12:15 pm
Travel suitcase and medical mask. The ban on travel during the epidemic of coronavirus and quarantine against corona virus or covid-19 concept.

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Richmond, VA _  AAA Travel expects the vast majority of Americans to stay home this holiday season. Public health concerns and travel guidance are influencing their decisions not to travel over the year-end holidays, a period that typically sees high demand for vacations. While AAA expects at least 34 million fewer travelers compared to last year’s holiday season, as many as 84.5 million Americans may still travel from Dec. 23 through Jan. 3, a decline in travel of at least 29%.

AAA projects that the number of travelers in Virginia for the holiday will be the lowest in 19 years. Automobile travel in the commonwealth is expected to be the lowest since 2008, down 26% from last year. The number of airline travelers will see the biggest decline, predicted to be the lowest in at least 20 years and down 60% from 2019.  “Travel numbers this year are not only expected to be the lowest we have seen in close to two decades, but steadily increasing cases of COVID-19 and the governor’s newest restrictions, enacted on December 14 may drive the actual travel volume even lower as some Virginians decide to stay home and play it safe,” said Martha Mitchell Meade, Manager of Public and Government Affairs for AAA Mid-Atlantic.

The CDC urges Americans not to travel for the holidays this year, warning that travel increases your chance of getting and spreading COVID-19.

For those who make the personal decision to travel, it is important to understand the risks involved and take steps to keep yourself and others safe. Seek the advice of a trusted travel advisor and refer to AAA’s COVID-19 Travel Restrictions Map and TripTik.AAA.com for the latest state and local travel restrictions, and to help determine which rest stops, gas stations, restaurants and hotels are open along your route.

Holiday travelers are continuing to take a wait-and-see approach to their travel decisions. With COVID‑19 cases steadily increasing this month, the expected continued rise will likely prompt some Americans to make last minute decisions to not follow through with upcoming travel plans, which was the trend during the lead up to Thanksgiving.

Based on mid-October travel forecast models, AAA expected up to 50 million people would travel for the Thanksgiving holiday, which would have been a decline of 10% from 2019. While final Thanksgiving travel numbers are not yet available, AAA expects the decline to be closer to 15–20%, as the CDC and state and local authorities advised against holiday travel.

Most Americans who decide to travel will do so by car, with road trips accounting for 96% of holiday travel. Up to 81 million Americans will travel by car, a decline of at least 25% compared to last year. Auto travel is expected to replace some trips previously taken by bus, train or airplane, given the flexibility, security and comfort traveling by car provides.

For those who decide to hit the road for the year-end holidays, gas prices remain nearly 50 cents cheaper than this time last year. Recent monthly gas prices are 19% below 2019 averages. 

AAA reminds those hitting the road to plan their route in advance and ensure their vehicle is ready for the road, to help avoid a breakdown along the way. AAA expects to rescue more than 905,000 Americans at the roadside this holiday season. AAA makes it easy to request assistance—by phone or text (1-800-AAA-HELP), app or online—and members can track the service technician’s progress as they make their way to your vehicle.

As many as 2.9 million travelers are expected to book flights for the holidays, a decline of nearly 60% from 2019. Air travelers can likely expect to pay lower airfares this holiday season, as AAA has seen double-digit reductions in average flight costs. AAA reminds air travelers to wear their mask, and wipe down seats, armrests, belt buckles and tray tables using disinfecting wipes, as an extra precaution. Meanwhile, up to 480,000 Americans are expected to travel by other modes, including bus and train this holiday season, a sharp decline of 87% as some bus and train trips will be shifted to car travel or cancelled.