Far fewer consumers plan to travel for Thanksgiving this year because of COVID-19

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Despite relatively lower traffic, roadways will likely be congested over the holidays

The number of Americans who plan to travel for Thanksgiving this year is considerably lower than those who did it last year, according to a new study from Cars.com.

Not that it’s any surprise, but the COVID-19 pandemic is the primary reason for more than half (59 percent) of those staying home for the holiday. For those who say they’ll venture out, the majority of those travelers (72 percent) plan on keeping their trips close to home. 

"We've been watching consumer travel habits since the onset of the pandemic, and there have been two consistent themes -- the pandemic is obviously affecting people's travel plans, but when people do travel, the majority drive by car because of the safety and freedom cars provide. We are seeing these themes continue for holiday travel this year," said Jenni Newman, Cars.com editor-in-chief.

Major cities will be hit the hardest

The survey found an interesting reason for why many travelers (44 percent) are staying home. It seems they’re avoiding large cities, a reasonable bet because there are metro areas such as Houston, Boston, and Chicago where the number of infections continues to grow and records are being set.

For those who do decide to travel, most (72 percent) will take the car. While travel is down overall, drivers should expect a spike in highway congestion over the holidays. Cars.com estimates that the highest congestion will happen the weekend before Thanksgiving (37 percent), followed by Thanksgiving day itself (19 percent), then the Wednesday before Thanksgiving (13 percent). The local hours between 9 a.m. and 12 p.m. are expected to be the busiest for travel Nov. 25 and 26.

"While personal vehicles present a safer option for holiday travel, it's important for drivers and their passengers to stay vigilant and follow Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines and local COVID-19 rules and restrictions," said Newman.

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