Biggest drop in Thanksgiving holiday travel since 2008 expected as majority of SoCal travelers plan road trips

Local news

With coronavirus infections on the rise around the country, fewer Southern Californians are expected to travel over the upcoming Thanksgiving holiday.

There will be a 13% drop in travel compared to last year— the largest one-year decline since the 2008 recession, when Thanksgiving travel dropped 26%, according to an Auto Club forecast.

AAA anticipates nationwide Thanksgiving air travel will be down by nearly half compared to prior years, with an expected 2.4 million travelers this year.

While there will be less travel overall, AAA expects more drivers to hit the road than during this year’s summer holidays.

About 92% of Southern California residents who plan to travel are expected to take a road trip, compared to the 86% who drove to Thanksgiving destinations last year.

Though forecasters said traffic volume is expected to be lower than in years past, traffic bottlenecks are on the menu this holiday for drivers in major urban areas — especially during the Wednesday afternoon before the holiday.

The top traffic congestion spots in Los Angeles. (INRIX)
The top traffic congestion spots in Los Angeles. (INRIX)

“This Thanksgiving will be different than in years’ past. Rather than spending time indoors with friends and family, many people may choose to spend the holiday with their own households and take road trips to the great outdoors,” AAA spokesman Doug Shupe said.

Auto Club members have also been contacting travel agents to book trips in 2021 and 2022 instead of planning distant leisure travel for this holiday, according to Shupe.

With travel restrictions in place in several countries, including European destinations, airlines have been focused on domestic travel. United Airlines, for example, is adding more than 1,400 domestic flights during the week of Thanksgiving, expecting to see busiest week since March — but still less travel than years past.

For those who do travel this year, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention urges wearing masks in all public settings, keeping at least 6 feet away from others, regular hand-washing and staying away from those who are sick.

Travelers can enter their starting point and destination into the AAA website and click the “Covid-19 Travel Restrictions” button to see a listing of requirements, including whether mask and quarantine mandates are enforced at the location. There’s also a U.S. map that shows which states have restrictions in place.

“Travel increases the chance of getting and spreading the virus that causes COVID-19. Staying home is the best way to protect yourself and others,” the CDC says.

For Californians planning overnight trips, the CDC recommends first considering how widespread the virus is at the planned destination and also making a plan for what to do if a person in the group becomes sick.

If exposed to the coronavirus during holiday travel, the agency recommends staying home and away from others for 14 days while monitoring for a fever and other COVID-19 symptoms. The CDC also tells those exposed to consider getting tested for the virus.

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