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AAA: Fewer traveling this Thanksgiving due to COVID-19

AAA says expect roads and airports to be less busy as health and economic concerns impact decisions to travel for the holiday.

BUFFALO, N.Y. — One of the busiest travel times of the year could be much quieter than usual in 2020, thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic.

AAA released its holiday travel forecast Thursday showing travel over the Thanksgiving holiday will drop by at least 10%. The organization says that's the biggest one-year decrease since the Great Recession in 2008.

"With more travel restrictions in place, more COVID concerns, as the holiday approaches, those numbers will likely push even lower due to the public health landscape that we're seeing now," said Elizabeth Carey, the director of public relations for AAA Western and Central New York.

The survey shows Americans' decisions are being driven by health and economic concerns related to the virus as well as taking the advise of experts that it's just safer to stay home.

As of mid-October, AAA expected up to 50 million folks to hit the road for Thanksgiving, down from 55 million in 2019. Now, however, as positive cases are on the rise and state and local governments increase restrictions, it says the actual number will be even lower.

“The wait-and-see travel trend continues to impact final travel decisions, especially for the Thanksgiving holiday,” said Paula Twidale, senior vice president, AAA Travel. “The decision to travel is a personal one. For those who are considering making a trip, the majority will go by car, which provides the flexibility to modify holiday travel plans up until the day of departure.”

AAA expects air travel to be down by nearly half of previous years, 2.4 million, making it the largest one-year decrease on record. Travel by other means, including busses and trains, is expected to drop by 76%. 

There are also fewer flights from some airlines. For example, during a typical Thanksgiving week, there are usually 15 to 20 daily flights each way between Buffalo and New York City -- just from Delta, Jet Blue and United.
This year, those airlines are only offering about five daily flights each way between those cities, according to AAA officials. 

"Limited flight schedules mixed with determined travelers means the planes could reach capacity," said Brian Murray, the director of travel with AAA Western and Central New York.

However, road trips continue to be on the rise, with a projected 95 percent of all holiday trips happening by car.

A primary piece of advice from representatives with AAA -- do your homework on the COVID-19 rules in the area you're heading to. 

Murray explained, "It really is key to understand what requirements are there. A test is a test, many people think. However, certain states require test results from certain accredited or designated testing sites so that's where knowing all those details before you travel is key."

Click here to check out the AAA COVID-19 restrictions map.

WATCH: New New York State COVID-19 Policy for travelers


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