Modified journey plans on the menu this Thanksgiving

(NerdWallet) – Turkey Day will look different for many Americans this year as the COVID-19 pandemic has far-reaching implications. According to a new NerdWallet poll, three in five adults in the United States who had Thanksgiving travel plans (60%) said those plans were affected by the pandemic. Only 12% say their plans have not been influenced and another 29% are unsure if it will. And while some are still planning to travel, many are skipping to see loved ones in person this year.

In an online NerdWallet survey of more than 2,000 Americans conducted by The Harris Poll, we asked how the pandemic is affecting Thanksgiving travel plans for 2020, including transportation and accommodation.

Main results

  • COVID-19 Impacts Plans To See loved ones: Among Americans who say their Thanksgiving travel plans have been affected by the pandemic, 42% say they usually travel with or visit friends and family, but this one Year they won’t do this. Over a quarter (28%) say they usually drive somewhere out of town, but not this year.
  • Thanksgiving travelers choose shorter, tighter trips: Around one in five Americans (21%) plans to get out of town for the upcoming Thanksgiving vacation, but more than half of them (52%) say their plans are are affected by COVID-19. More than a quarter of affected travelers (26%) say they will spend less time away from home than usual and 25% plan to stay closer to home than in previous years.
  • Travelers choose dinner destinations: Of those planning Thanksgiving trips, the majority (75%) plan on driving part or all of the trip.
  • Staying with family or friends beats hotels: Nearly 3 in 5 Thanksgiving travelers (57%) plan to stay at home with a family member or friend during their trip. About a third (31%) plan to stay in a hotel or motel.

Pandemic throws off Thanksgiving plans

Like everything else, the 2020 Thanksgiving traditions won’t be quite the same for many American households. Of those adults in the United States who say their travel plans have been affected by the pandemic, more than 2 in 5 (42%) say they normally travel or visit with their friends and family but do not this year . Nearly 3 in 10 Americans (28%) normally travel outside of the city but won’t this year, and 13% say the same about flying anywhere for vacation.

Other Americans’ Thanksgiving plans may be affected by COVID-19, but those effects were not yet certain by the survey. Nearly one in five Americans (18%) says they are unsure whether their plans will be affected by the pandemic.

What To Do: In this year of uncertainty, it can be frustrating to give up your holiday traditions to reduce the risk of you and your loved ones of COVID-19 exposure. As the pandemic worsens in many parts of the country, it is safest to avoid unnecessary travel.

“We have been in this pandemic for months and it can feel like we’ve been robbed so much. But the safest thing we can all do now is stay home and keep the vacation small, ”says NerdWallet travel expert Sara Rathner. “When traveling, keep your plans flexible in case you have to cancel. Whenever possible, book refundable accommodations and read the airline’s policies to reschedule your flight to a later date. “

Parents, millennials are more likely to make travel plans

Even among the 21% of Americans planning to get out of town for Thanksgiving, many have had to change direction this year. More than half of Thanksgiving travelers (52%) say their plans have been affected by COVID-19 – some spend less time away from home than usual (26%), others drive a personal vehicle to their destination when they usually do fly (25%).

Around 1 in 8 Americans (12%) are still not sure about going out of town for Thanksgiving, but there are definitely trends in travel planning. Millennials (24-39 years old) and parents of underage children are more likely to be Thanksgiving travelers this year than other groups.

Over a third of parents of children under the age of 18 (36%) say they plan to travel outside of town for Thanksgiving. This compares to 13% of Americans who don’t have children under the age of 18. Meanwhile, a third of Millennials (33%) plan to travel outside of town for Thanksgiving, compared to 24% of Gen Xers (40-55 years old). and only 8% of baby boomers (56-74 years old).

What Travelers Can Do: If you are traveling outside of town for this Thanksgiving Day, make sure you are following the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) guidelines for safe travel during the pandemic. Also, familiarize yourself with the travel restrictions in the state you are traveling to.

“If you do decide to leave town, be sure to take recommended precautions like wearing a mask,” Rathner says. “Check the rules of the state you are visiting as visitors outside of the state may need to be isolated upon arrival.”

Most travelers go to destinations and stay with loved ones

In the past year, the Transportation Security Administration reviewed a record-breaking number of Thanksgiving flyers. In 2020, driving will be the mode of transport of choice.

Many Thanksgiving travelers who normally fly to their destinations take to the streets instead: of those whose plans have been hit by the pandemic, 25% drive their car and 22% rent a car instead of flying. So it’s not surprising that most Thanksgiving travelers (75%) plan on making their way to their destination this year. Just over a quarter of those planning Thanksgiving trips (27%) say they will fly. (Travelers were allowed to choose more than one option when answering this question.)

In terms of accommodation, most travelers plan to stay with loved ones. Close to 3 in 5 Thanksgiving travelers (57%) plan to stay at home with a family member or friend, while nearly a third (31%) say they plan to stay in a hotel or motel. More than one in five Thanksgiving travelers (21%) plan to stay in a vacation home like Airbnb.

What Travelers Can Do: Try to be flexible when making travel plans this holiday season. While it usually makes sense to book flights and accommodations in advance, especially during the travel-heavy end of the year, 2020 is anything but common.

“Travel rates are still very low, so you may be able to book flights or hotel rooms at lower prices than you would normally see on Thanksgiving weekend, depending on where you are going. Still, health and safety are always more important than good business, ”says Rathner. “There’s a reason vacation rentals, RVs, and motels are more popular now – they make it easier to avoid public spaces like hotel lobbies. You may want to change your travel style to make social distancing easier. “


This survey was conducted online in the US by The Harris Poll on behalf of NerdWallet October 14-16, 2020 of 2,070 US adults ages 18 and older, 485 of whom are planning to travel out of town for the upcoming Thanksgiving Day. This online survey is not based on a probability sample and therefore an estimate of the theoretical sample error cannot be calculated. Contact Brittany Benson at [email protected] for a complete survey methodology including weighting variables and sample sizes for subgroups.

Thanksgiving Travelers are those who plan to get out of town for the Thanksgiving holiday between November 23rd and 30th, 2020.

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Erin El Issa is a writer at NerdWallet. Email: [email protected] Twitter: @Erin_El_Issa.

The item Changed Itineraries in the This Thanksgiving menu originally appeared on NerdWallet.

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