DC-area residents staying put for Thanksgiving because of pandemic, AAA says

A majority of residents in D.C., Maryland and Virginia will not be traveling this Thanksgiving, in large part because of the coronavirus pandemic, AAA reports.

“Given the recent surge in COVID-19 and the strong urging of public health officials for everyone to stay home for the holiday, the Thanksgiving travel landscape continues to change,” John B. Townsend II, of AAA Mid-Atlantic, said in a news release.

The group’s survey found that 83% of D.C. residents will be staying at home for Thanksgiving, with two out of three citing concerns about COVID-19, while 35% said they were not planning to travel anyway.

Results were similar in Maryland and Virginia.

Nearly 90% of Maryland residents said they would be staying at home for Thanksgiving, with half saying they were avoiding travel because of COVID-19, while the other half was not planning to travel anyway.

In addition, 90% of Maryland residents said that traveling at this time poses a risk.

In Virginia, 84% of residents said they would be staying at home, with 41% not traveling because of COVID-19 and 59% with no travel plans anyway. An overwhelming majority of Virginia residents also said that traveling at this time was a risk.

More Coronavirus news

Looking for more information? D.C., Maryland and Virginia are each releasing more data every day. Visit their official sites here: Virginia | Maryland | D.C.

According to AAA, up to 1.2 million Washington-area residents were projected to travel for the Thanksgiving holiday, down from nearly 1.4 million last year. That’s a 13.7% decrease and the largest one-year drop in Thanksgiving travel in the region since the 2008 recession.

The regional numbers reflect a nationwide trend. AAA Mid-Atlantic said last week that while it predicts more than 50 million Americans will travel 50 miles or more from home over the Thanksgiving holiday, that’s down about 5 million from last year — and the numbers could go even lower as the holiday approaches.

Of those who still plan on traveling, AAA said, most will be driving. In fact, it anticipates that Thanksgiving air travel will see the largest one-year decrease on record.

“Although Thanksgiving is typically a driving holiday, it should be noted that, since the beginning of COVID-19, those who have decided to travel this year have predominantly done so by car, where they can have greater control over their environment and the ability to modify plans at the last minute,” Townsend said.

AAA is urging drivers to be aware of the local and state coronavirus-related travel restrictions of where they are going, including any quarantine and testing requirements. (An interactive map of restrictions for all states can be found here.)

AAA is also asking drivers to be extra-prepared for the road this year.

“COVID-19 adds an extra layer of complexity to all interactions, including roadside emergency calls, so this year it is more important than ever for all motorists to ensure that their vehicles are road-ready, even if they are just driving across town,” Townsend said.

For those who do hit the road this Thanksgiving, one bonus is cheaper gas. On average, gas prices nationally are nearly 50 cents lower than this time last year, with the October average the lowest in more than 15 years.

The AAA surveys were conducted Nov. 12-13 by Public Policy Polling. They surveyed 715 D.C. residents, with a margin of error of plus or minus 3.7%; 873 Maryland residents were surveyed with a margin of error of plus or minus 3.3%, and the survey of 844 Virginia residents has a margin of error of plus or minus 3.4%.

Anna Gawel

Anna Gawel joined WTOP in 2020 and works in both the radio and digital departments. Anna Gawel has spent much of her career as the managing editor of The Washington Diplomat, which has been the flagship publication of D.C.’s diplomatic community for over 25 years.

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