For many Americans, the classic carol “I’ll be home for Christmas” will literally describe their plans for this holiday weekend, as most choose to celebrate instead amid the ongoing pandemic.
Only about a quarter of people across the country will travel at Christmas and New Year, down from about a third last year, and most will drive rather than fly or take the train, industry sources say.
AAA predicts that at least 29% fewer trips will be made today through January 3, compared to the same period a year ago. While up to 84.5 million Americans can choose to travel despite Covid’s current growth, it is at least 34 million less than in 2019, the organization says. By comparison, the AAA estimates that Thanksgiving was stopped by up to 15% last month.
“The end-of-year holidays are when Americans often venture for longer, more elaborate vacations,” Paula Twidale, senior vice president at AAA Travel, said in a statement. “That won’t be the case this year.”
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Twidale cited public health issues, official government anti-travel guidelines and a general decline in consumer sentiment as factors that led many to decide to stay home. (The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention warns that travel can increase your chances of getting and spreading Covid-19 on its website.)
The consumer finance site ValuePenguin found that only 23% of 1,000 Americans surveyed intended to travel next weekend, compared to 32% who said they would travel for Thanksgiving.
Meanwhile, holiday property management software company Guesty reported in mid-December that accommodation bookings for both Christmas and New Year’s Eve, while rising, were down 15% from 2019. (With however, Guesty officials were optimistic that booking rates would reduce the difference by the end of the year or at least land close.)
Americans who decide to travel in the next two weeks will probably do so by car. AAA says road trips will account for 96 percent of vacation travel, with up to 81 million Americans arriving on the nation’s highways. This would be a decline of at least 25% from last year – despite a shift to cars and away from buses, planes and trains.
AAA says car travel will replace other modes of travel due to the “flexibility, security and comfort offered by car travel.” However, ValuePenguin found in its survey that 7% of those traveling for the December holidays will actually fly an increase from the 3% who planned to do so for Thanksgiving. This may be due to cheaper fares: AAA reports double-digit declines in average flight prices.
Drivers will also save money when they take out their tanks this year, with gasoline prices 33 cents lower per gallon compared to 2019. But some of those savings will burn in traffic; AAA warns hikers to expect about 20% more congestion on the nation’s highways and bypasses.
Where bold travelers go
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Do you travel, but don’t stay with friends or family? You can find some accommodation savings in your sock. Your guesty has found that the average nightly rate for New Year’s Eve bookings has dropped this month to the same price as in 2019. Hosts are likely to lower their prices to boost bookings. general reluctance to travel.
And where are the nice Christmas and New Year holidays? The global booking system Amadeus has found that the top five destinations in the US, with hotel occupancy rates of 50% or more, are:
- Vail, Colorado
- Key West, Florida
- Sedona, Arizona
- Aspen, Colorado
- Fort Myers, Florida