Americans took 35% fewer road trips for Thanksgiving

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HARRISBURG, Pa. (WHTM) — U.S. travelers threw their Thanksgiving road trip plans in reverse in 2020, defying predictions for one of the busiest road trip occasions of the year.

Road trip travel over the Thanksgiving holiday was down 35% from last year, according to travel data company, Arrivalist and its Daily Travel Index. The results are a departure from previous holidays earlier this year, such as Fourth of July and Labor Day, when road trip activity rivaled or exceeded the same period in the previous year. Road trip activity observed over Thanksgiving made it the least traveled major holiday of the year, with less activity than observed over Memorial Day.

Arrivalist measured a drop, year over year, in Thanksgiving travel across all the contiguous U.S. states. However, some states like Utah were closer to 2019 levels in activity than other states like Vermont which saw 66.4% fewer road trips in Thanksgiving 2020 than in the same period the year before.

“Travel by private car—generally regarded as one of the safest and most available means of leisure travel during the pandemic—had begun establishing itself as a leading indicator of travel’s rebound,” said Arrivalist CEO, Cree Lawson. “That appears to have taken a back seat to people’s desire to protect themselves and each other from a surge of Covid-19 cases.”

“The pandemic trends are clearly not going to allow a broad reopening of travel nearly as soon as we hoped,” said U.S. Travel Association President and CEO Roger Dow. “It’s heartening to see Americans making decisions to keep safe, but the situation is exceptionally painful for travel businesses and workers, who are going to need substantial federal assistance in order to survive until a recovery can begin.”

Greatest Impact in the Northeast

Road trip activity varied greatly by state over the holiday. Nearly all states in the Northeast, plus Illinois and Ohio saw less than half the road trip activity of the prior year. States with the greatest reduction in road trip activity included:

  1. Vermont (-66.4%)
  2. Rhode Island (-64.9%)
  3. Connecticut (-57.6%)
  4. Massachusetts (-52.7%)
  5. New Hampshire (-52.6%)
  6. Illinois (-52.1%)
  7. Ohio (-52.0%)

Least impact in the West

The drop in year-over-year travel was pronounced in all states, with the smallest drop experienced in Utah, which was still down more than 13%.

• Utah (-13.9%)
• Nevada (-20.4%)
• Montana (-24.5%)
• South Dakota (-27.6%)
• Wyoming (-28.7%)
• North Dakota (- 39.3%)

Arrivalist’s methodology is based on a representative balanced panel of GPS signals representing road trips taken specifically in cars (excluding travel by air). A trip is measured as one where the user has traveled a minimum of 50 miles and spent a minimum of two hours at the destination. Commuter travel or other frequently repeated trips—i.e., cargo deliveries or other reoccurring activities—are excluded from the Daily Travel Index.

For more information and to stay up to date on holiday weekend trends, click here.

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