ARKANSAS (KNWA/KFTA) — Despite the surge in COVID-19 cases, millions of Americans are expected to hit the road or catch a flight for the Thanksgiving holiday season.
Wednesday, November 25, is traditionally an extremely busy travel day ahead of Thanksgiving. This year because of the pandemic travel is expected to be on the lighter side, but still high.
Based on a survey taken in mid-October about 50 million Americans are expected to pack their bags and take trips this holiday season, said AAA Spokesperson Nick Chabarria. That number is down 10% from last year, which was 55 million.
Chabarria said with the current safety recommendations and the number of COVID-19 cases on the rise, he expects the final number to be even less.
In addition, health experts are urging people to stay put this year to help reduce the spread of COVID-19.
Chabarria said the travel industry continues to take huge blows during this health crisis.
“The travel industry has been severely impacted by the pandemic and the restrictions in place. I mean you think about the hotel bookings, car rentals, airline tickets — all of those things feel the effects of fewer travelers,” said Chabarria.
Despite the risks, millions will be sticking to their travel plans. Chavarria’s advice to travelers, know your destination’s restrictions have your masks, hand sanitizer, and just travel responsibly.
Over at Northwest Arkansas National Airport (XNA), officials tell us they are not expecting the record passenger counts they have had in past years but assume there will be an increase in foot traffic at the airport. Officials tell us crews are ready and have several measures in place to keep everyone safe.
Since the pandemic hit in the spring, travel experts are also seeing that people are changing the way they travel and leaning toward taking road trips more than they’ve had in previous years.
Chabarria said road trips are a dominant form of transportation this holiday.
Those who do hit the road will also see cheaper gas prices. In Arkansas, gas prices have fallen nearly 2-cents per gallon in the past week with the cheapest station in the state priced at $1.54 a gallon, that’s according to GasBuddy.
If the downward trend continues, we could be seeing the lowest Thanksgiving gas prices in five years.
Chabarria said people are enjoying the flexibility that comes with driving and he expects that trend to continue through the holidays.
“You’re more in control of your travel time, of when you want to leave and if you even want to go. Beyond that, it even isolates folks from too much exposure from others in the public.”
He recommends planning ahead before your road trip. Try to pack what you need, such as snacks and water to avoid unnecessary stops.
He said it’s important for those traveling for the holidays to keep good safety habits. Wear your masks, wash your hands, and don’t forget to social distance.