A drop of 46% in the number of drivers on U.S. roads for the Thanksgiving holiday due to COVID-19 is just the beginning of the story of how the pandemic is affecting Americans’ holiday celebrations this year.
According to a recent survey by GasBuddy, 71% of Americans are staying home this year and 5% are planning no Thanksgiving celebration at all. A fifth are commemorating the holiday at a different location and 11% said they are driving rather than using other forms of transportation to get to their holiday destinations.
Among those who will be driving this year, 15% said low gas prices are a top reason, more than double the 6% who said low gas prices encouraged them to drive last year. Only 2% cited low gas prices as their reason for driving in 2018.
Patrick De Haan, head of petroleum analysis at GasBuddy, cited recent announcements of successful COVID-19 vaccine trials as a slight return to optimism, but concluded, “[T]he survey results show continued anxiety from motorists even with the lowest Thanksgiving gas prices in years, highlighting the challenges we’re facing in this pandemic.”
The survey also revealed a 75% increase in drivers planning trips of less than an hour’s driving time compared with driving time last year.
Last week, AAA said it expected about 10% fewer travelers on the road this year than last, while air travel is expected to decline by nearly half (47.5%) to 2.4 million and other forms of travel (buses, trains, and cruise ships) face a decline of more than 76%.
As of Wednesday morning, a gallon of regular gas sells for an average of about $2.12 nationally. Gasoline prices remain below $1.80 a gallon in four states: Missouri, Mississippi, Oklahoma and Texas. Gas prices are above $3.00 a gallon in Hawaii and California and above $2.50 a gallon in Washington, Nevada and Oregon.
Among people planning to drive to a holiday destination, this year’s top consideration about stops along the highway is gas prices, followed by convenience and cleanliness, which has moved up from fifth place to third place, when travelers consider making a pit stop.