Thanksgiving 2020: 56% of Americans still plan to travel, small study claims

Whether or not travel is on the menu for your family this Thanksgiving, a surprising number of Americans still plan to hit the road for Turkey Day this year, a new study claims.

On Monday, Tripadvisor released the findings from its 2020 Thanksgiving Travel Index, claiming that over half of Americans polled – 56% – intend to leave home for the holiday amid the ongoing outbreak of COVID-19. Of those, 75% said they plan to drive to their destination, while a slim 11% said they’re flying to their Thanksgiving celebrations.

In another tweak to tradition, 22% said they’ll be staying in a hotel or vacation rental to socially distance from loved ones. According to the data, Thanksgiving Day (Nov. 26) is expected to be the busiest departure day, as 26% of travelers venture out. The busiest return date is predicted to be Nov. 27 (aka Black Friday) as 31% of travelers head back home.

“This year, we can expect shorter trips with smaller groups of people for more intimate, close-knit gatherings. Many are taking day trips (24%) or spending one night at their destination,” Christopher Hsi, consumer market research lead analyst for Tripadvisor, said in a statement. “Americans are also continuing to avoid big cities, instead opting for warm weather and beach destinations in Southern states.”

When reached for comment, a spokesperson for the travel review site said that about 400 participants were polled for the survey portion of the report.

TripAdvisor’s booking data also showed that Florida, Arizona and South Carolina are dominating as popular destinations for the holiday. Citing year-over-year hotel interest, the report named the following cities as the fastest-recovering Thanksgiving travel destinations: Key Largo, Fla., Sedona, Ariz., Key West, Fla., Scottsdale, Ariz., Naples, Fla., Clearwater, Fla., Palm Springs, Calif., Myrtle Beach, S.C., Charleston, S.C., and St. Pete Beach, Fla.

On the other hand, the slowest-recovering destinations (according to year-over-year hotel interest) were listed as follows: New York City, New Orleans, Los Angeles, Nashville, Tenn., Boston, Chicago, Fort Lauderdale, Orlando, Fla., Las Vegas, and San Antonio.

Airlines and travel industry experts have seen spikes in holiday travel booking during the third quarter and into the fourth quarter, as more consumers become more comfortable with flying. One travel executive guessed that it might have something to do with people getting sick of staying home.

“Pandemic fatigue is absolutely promoting holiday air travel, and that includes flight bookings,” Eric Jones, co-founder of The Vacationer, a travel website, said. “Many people have been in quarantine and away from friends and family for many months, so they are willing to take a calculated risk and get on an airplane with proper precautions during this year’s holiday season.”

Executives for budget carriers Allegiant Air and JetBlue also claimed that customers are becoming more optimistic about leisure travel and booking flights around the holidays.

To that end, United Airlines announced on Monday that it will be adding over 1,400 domestic flights to its schedule during the week of Thanksgiving.

Officials anticipate that the week of Nov. 23 will be the airline’s busiest since March, the carrier said in a statement.