Forecast: Fewer Coloradans Traveling for Thanksgiving
New data: Coloradans wary, travel down.
DENVER (Nov. 12, 2020) - AAA forecasts significantly fewer Coloradans will travel for Thanksgiving this year as a direct result of the COVID-19 pandemic. Health and economic concerns, including sustained unemployment, are the key drivers behind what is expected to be the lowest Thanksgiving travel volume in four years – and the largest yearly decline since the Great Recession.
Nationwide, AAA projects 50 million Americans will travel this Thanksgiving. In Colorado, AAA anticipates 897,000 travelers. It is likely those figures will decline further as prospective travelers monitor the public health landscape, including rising COVID-19 positive case numbers, renewed quarantine restrictions, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's (CDC) public health notices.
"The goal for this incredibly abnormal Thanksgiving holiday is to make sure we can have a normal one next year," said Skyler McKinley, director of public affairs for AAA Colorado. "To that end, reconsider your travel plans, stick to small gatherings, wear a mask, wash your hands, and think about others as we express gratitude for the fact that we will eventually make it past this challenge."
Colorado Travel by the Numbers
- Automobile travel: All told, AAA forecasts that 848,000 Coloradans will travel by car for Thanksgiving. That represents an increase of 1.7 percent over 2019, indicating that Coloradans are increasingly choosing destinations closer to home or otherwise accessible by car – which they perceive as a safer travel option. Nationwide, Thanksgiving automobile travel is down 4.3 percent.
- Air travel: In turn, 34,000 Coloradans will travel by airplane. That represents a decline of nearly 45 percent from 2019. Nationwide, Thanksgiving air travel is down by more than 47 percent.
- Other travel (bus, train, cruise): Fewer than 15,000 Coloradans will take other forms of travel for Thanksgiving, representing a decline of more than 75 percent from 2019 – and the lowest travel demand on record.
New Colorado Traveler Survey Data
According to a separate, representative survey of Colorado residents, AAA found that:
- Fully 70 percent of Coloradans canceled or postponed their 2020 travel plans as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.
- 75 percent of Coloradans are willing to wear a mask in public while traveling, while 22 percent will wear a mask only if it is required. Just three percent of Coloradans would refuse to wear a mask to travel.
- Just 23 percent of Coloradans are comfortable traveling for the holidays during the pandemic.
- 73 percent of Coloradans are comfortable traveling in their own vehicle, compared to 28 percent who are comfortable taking a commercial flight.
- 70 percent of Coloradans are working from home more often due to the pandemic and, of those, 46 percent said the flexibility of virtual school or working from home made them more likely to take a trip this holiday season.
- Still, fully 67 percent of Coloradans do not plan to take a trip of three or more days away from home during the 2020 holiday season, while 13 percent are unsure.
- 46 percent of Coloradans say they will feel more comfortable traveling once a vaccine is available for COVID-19.
Wednesday, Nov. 25, will be the busiest day on the roads, with the highest volume anticipated that afternoon, according to AAA's partner INRIX. Although traffic volume is expected to be smaller than in years’ past, travelers in major urban areas, including Denver and Colorado Springs, will experience increased delays at popular bottlenecks, up to 30 percent above normal pandemic congestion levels. What's more, many travelers who previously traveled by bus or by airplane are opting to drive this year.
Those hitting the road for Thanksgiving can anticipate a national average of $2.11 per gallon, the lowest seasonal gas price since 2015. In Colorado, motorists can expect to pay an average of $2.18 per gallon, down from $2.79 at this time last year. The most expensive fill-up will be in Vail, at $2.62 per gallon, while the cheapest will be in Greeley, at $2.08. In Denver, drivers can expect to pay $2.09 for a gallon of unleaded.
“Thanksgiving gas prices should remain lower than last year, but drivers shouldn’t be surprised if they inch higher in the coming weeks,” McKinley said. “The fuel market is excited about the news of a possible coronavirus vaccine and the hope of an eventual return to normalcy. Crude oil and wholesale gasoline prices both increased this week, which should stop gas prices from falling much further.”
What to Know Before You Go
For Coloradans who make the personal decision to travel for the holiday, it is important to know the risks involved and how to keep yourself and others safe. In addition to CDC guidance, travelers should also be aware of local and state travel restrictions, including testing requirements and quarantine orders.
- Review travel restrictions. Check AAA’s COVID-19 Travel Restrictions Map as well as CDC’s COVID-19 data tracker for the latest state and local travel restrictions.
- Get tested. Many destinations require negative COVID tests before admitting travelers – and it's the right thing to do, no matter where you're traveling. AAA members with confirmed, near-term travel plans can schedule a rapid, non-invasive, PCR swab-based test at AAA.com/TravelFast.
- Follow Public Health Guidance. Consistent use of face masks combined with social distancing (at least 6 feet) and regular hand-washing are the best ways to lower your risk of contracting COVID-19. Be sure to pack face masks, disinfecting wipes, hand sanitizer and a thermometer to help protect and monitor your health. Also pack water and extra snacks to reduce the need to stop along your trip.
- Plan Your Road Trip. Use TripTik.AAA.com to plan your road trip and help determine which rest stops, gas stations, restaurants and hotels are open along your route. Also check out AAA.com/RoadTrips for more road trip inspiration. Make sure your car is in tip-top shape at AAA.com/Repair.
- Verify Before You Go. Call ahead to minimize any last minute surprises. Prior to any hotel stay, call ahead to ensure your hotel is open and ask what precautions they are taking to protect guests. Ask about social distancing protocols such as capacity reductions in common spaces, hotel staff requirements to wear masks at all times and if all amenities are available, like restaurant dining. If renting a car, ask what has been done to clean the vehicle. Hertz, for example, has introduced Hertz Gold Standard Clean, an enhanced vehicle disinfectant and sanitization process. For extra peace of mind, use disinfecting wipes to wipe down door handles, steering wheels, shifters and control panels. If flying, AAA reminds air travelers that in-flight amenities, including food and beverage services, may not be available. Also, as a precaution, wipe down your seat, armrest, belt buckle and tray table using disinfecting wipes.
"The most important thing to remember right now is that the decision to travel is a personal one," McKinley said. "The CDC is clear: Staying home is the best way to stop the spread of COVID-19. If you do decide to travel, it is absolutely critical that you take every precaution possible to protect yourself and others."
About the Forecast
AAA’s projections are based on economic forecasting and research by IHS Markit, a London-based business information provider. For the purposes of this forecast, the Thanksgiving holiday travel period is defined as the five-day period from Wednesday, Nov. 25 to Sunday, Nov. 29.
In cooperation with AAA, IHS Markit developed a unique methodology to forecast actual domestic travel volumes, using macroeconomic drivers such as employment; output; household net worth; asset prices including stock indices; interest rates; housing market indicators and variables related to travel and tourism, including prices of gasoline, airline travel and hotel stays. For the 2020 Thanksgiving holiday travel forecast, IHS Markit also examined changes in the IHS Markit containment index regarding local COVID-19-related restrictions as well as the national case count and trend.
About the AAA Consumer Pulse™ Survey
The AAA Consumer Pulse™ Survey was conducted online among residents living in Colorado from October 1 - 15, 2020. A total of 403 residents completed the survey. Survey results asked of all respondents have a maximum margin of error of ± 4.9% points. Responses are weighted by age and gender to ensure reliable and accurate representation of the adult population (18+) in Colorado.
About AAA – The Auto Club Group
AAA Colorado is a proud part of The Auto Club Group (ACG), the second-largest AAA club in North America with more than 14 million members across 14 U.S. states, the province of Quebec and two U.S. territories. ACG and its affiliates provide members with roadside assistance, insurance products, banking and financial services, travel offerings and more. ACG belongs to the national AAA federation with more than 60 million members in the United States and Canada. AAA’s mission is to protect and advance freedom of mobility and improve traffic safety. For more information, get the AAA Mobile app, visit AAA.com, and follow us on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn. Learn more.