Home for the holiday: AAA forecasts Thanksgiving travel at historic lows

The COVID-19 pandemic is taking a bite out of Thanksgiving travel, AAA reports.

In a statement Thursday, AAA Mid-Atlantic said that while they predict 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 would be the largest one-year drop since the 2008 recession.

And the number could drop lower than that: AAA said their prediction was based on late-October forecast models, while the resurgence of the coronavirus has only gotten worse since then, which could lead even more Americans to stay home for the holiday.

They predict air travel will see the biggest one-year decrease on record.

“The wait-and-see travel trend continues to impact final travel decisions, especially for the Thanksgiving holiday,” Paula Twidale, senior vice president of AAA Travel, said in the statement.

About 95% of those who travel are going to do so by car, AAA said, and they reminded travelers of some ways to stay safe, such as packing snacks and drinks for the drive so as to minimize stops, as well as double-checking that your car is good to go.

You can check out COVID-19 safety restrictions in each state and plan your trip on the AAA site.

Dave Dildine, in the WTOP Traffic Center, said that though holidays are their own deal, the D.C. area’s roadways are looking light overall.

“Since the steep drop in traffic volume this summer, most highways across the region have rebounded somewhat, but are still down about 10 to 15% of averages for October and November,” he said. “I-95 is near normal, but traffic on I-395 is still lighter than it was pre-pandemic.”

He added that traffic patterns have changed over the course of the year, and the adage “get an early start” makes sense whatever day you decide to get away.

“Since spring, the highest volumes on most highways, including the Beltway, have shifted to later in the day,” Dildine said. “In general, mornings have been a little lighter and afternoons have been heavier, like weekends often are.”

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