MONTGOMERY, Ala. (WSFA) -The day before Thanksgiving is typically the busiest travel day of the year. This year that may still be true, even though fewer people are traveling.
Airports are still expected to be busier than they’ve been since the pandemic began, and the roads are still expected to be crowded. According to AAA, the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, including health concerns and high unemployment, are impacting Americans’ decisions to travel for the Thanksgiving holiday.
With health and government officials stressing that staying home is the best way to protect yourself and others from getting sick, AAA anticipates the largest one-year decrease since the Great Recession in 2008.
“For our holiday travel surveys, we do those typically a couple months in advance. And when we did this, initially, we felt like we would probably see about 50 million people traveling for the Thanksgiving holidays, compared to 55 million last year for Thanksgiving,” CLay Ingram of AAA Alabama said. “But with the recent spikes that we’ve seen, with COVID-19, it looks like that number is going to be significantly less. Rather than a 10 percent drop off from last year, we may see 15 to 20 percent drop off. And you know, and that’s understandable, given the situation there, there are still a lot of people that are going to go visit their friends and family no matter what. But there are a fair number of people that just aren’t comfortable getting out and about and being around other people just yet. And that’s totally understandable,”
AAA predicts that about 9 percent of travelers this week will be hitting the road, feeling safer in their cars than going to the airport.
“Typically, for a holiday weekend like this, we normally see about 85 percent of the people travel by automobile. This year, that number is going to be probably right around 95 percent. A big jump in that because people the people that are getting out and about are just more comfortable doing so in their own vehicle than some other form of public transportation. They just feel a little safer that way. And, and again, that’s understandable as well,” Ingram explained.
Drivers are finding lower gas prices this week. Prices at the pump are down about 30 cents from this time last year. Alabama’s average is about $1.86 a gallon right now.
And whether you’re worried about coronavirus or not, AAA has some good suggestions before you head out to keep you safe on your trip.
“There’s kind of two safety categories to keep in mind this year if you’re traveling. Number one, your just your general travel safety, things like get your car checked out ahead of time, if you can, by a certified technician. If you don’t have time to do that, at least check your tire pressure, your fluid levels, check your wiper blades, anything like that, that you can check yourself that you can do just a few minutes is a good idea,” said Ingram. “And then, from a sort of a pandemic standpoint, you want to plan ahead a little bit, pack a lunch, grab some snacks so that maybe you don’t have to stop as often on the way. If you’re pumping gas, have something in the car that you can put between your hands and the gas pump handle, whether it’s rubber gloves or a Ziploc bag or plastic grocery bag, whatever it might be, to insulate you a little bit from handling that gas pump. And then, you know, continue the safety precautions that we’ve all been doing. Wash your hands frequently, have some hand sanitizer, wear your mask, maintain social distancing, all those things we’ve been doing, you still need to do those, even though it’s a holiday situation because the COVID virus is not going to care where you are or who’s around you, or the fact that it’s a holiday, so you still have to be careful.”
Ingram says even though the roads won’t be as busy as a normal day before Thanksgiving, they will still be crowded, so it’s a good idea to pad your travel time and allow yourself some extra time to get where you’re going.
As always, do your best to eliminate distractions from the driver, not just cell phones. Drivers also don’t need to be the ones passing food to the backseat or changing the music. Designate someone else in the car to handle that.