AAA: Vast Majority of Americans Will Stay Home This Holiday Season

winter road trip

ORLANDO, Fla. — Holiday travel will look a little different this season.

According to AAA Travel, the majority of Americans will stay home this holiday season as public health concerns and travel guidance influence their decisions not to travel over the year-end holidays. 

While AAA expects at least 34 million fewer travelers compared to the 2019 holiday season, as many as 84.5 million Americans may still travel from Dec. 23 through Jan. 3, a decline in travel of at least 29 percent.

"While Thanksgiving is traditionally spent gathering with friends and family, the year-end holidays are when Americans often venture out for longer, more elaborate vacations. That will not be the case this year," said Paula Twidale, senior vice president, AAA Travel. "Public health concerns, official guidance not to travel, and an overall decline in consumer sentiment have encouraged the vast majority of Americans to stay home for the holidays."

As the association noted, holiday travelers are taking a wait-and-see approach before making any decisions — including cancelling plans similar to what AAA saw during the led up to Thanksgiving.

Based on mid-October travel forecast models, AAA expected up to 50 million people would travel for the Thanksgiving holiday, which would have been a decline of 10 percent from 2019. While final Thanksgiving travel numbers are not yet available, AAA expects the decline to be closer to 15 percent to 20 percent, as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and state and local authorities advised against holiday travel.

The majority of those who do go ahead with travel plans will most likely opt to travel by car, with road trips accounting for 96 percent of holiday getaways. Up to 81 million Americans will travel by car, a decline of at least 25 percent compared to last year, according to AAA.

Those motorists will find a gift at the pump: Gas prices remain nearly 50 cents cheaper than this time last year. Recent monthly gas prices are 19 percent below 2019 averages.  

"Typically, cheaper gas prices are an incentive for last minute trips, especially around the holidays. But the lower prices and less traffic aren't driving decisions to hit the road. Americans are looking to the public health landscape, including COVID-19 case numbers, to make their travel decisions," said Jeanette Casselano McGee, AAA spokesperson.