AAA Travel forecasts that government health officials call for Americans to avoid large gatherings this Thanksgiving to prevent the spread of COVID-19 will lead to a 10 percent decline in the number of travelers over the holiday weekend.

THE WINTER SURGE of COVID-19 cases is dampening Americans’ Thanksgiving plans, usually one of the busiest travel weekends of the year, according to AAA Travel. The travel agency forecasts at least a 10 percent drop in travel, the largest one-year decrease since the Great Recession in 2008, as officials urge people to stay home to avoid spreading the disease.

AAA had expected 50 million Americans to travel for Thanksgiving as of mid-October, when a survey by the agency found that 67 percent of U.S. adults planning a vacation before the end of the year reported some degree of uncertainty they will actually be able to take their vacation. That number of holiday travelers is still a drop from the 55 million who ventured out in 2019, and AAA Travel now predicts the number will be even lower.

“The wait-and-see travel trend continues to impact final travel decisions, especially for the Thanksgiving holiday,” said Paula Twidale, AAA Travel’s senior vice president. “The decision to travel is a personal one. For those who are considering making a trip, the majority will go by car, which provides the flexibility to modify holiday travel plans up until the day of departure.”

While once again driving is expected to be the primary method of travel, with 47.8 million drivers making up 95 percent of all the holiday’s travel, that is 4.3 percent less than last year. Those travelers also are expected to make shorter trips and stay fewer days at their destinations.

Air travel also is expected to be down by nearly half from prior years to 2.4 million travelers, the largest one-year decrease on record. Travel by other modes, including buses, trains and cruises, is expected to decline 76 percent to 353,000 travelers.

AAA Travel also made several tips for travelers to make their journeys safer in light of the pandemic. Regarding hotels, the agency suggests calling ahead to make sure the hotel is open and ask about precautions the property is taking to protect its guests, such as requiring masks for employees and guests.

“For Americans who make the personal decision to travel for the holiday, it is important to know the risks involved and ways to keep yourself and others safe,” AAA Travel said. “In addition to CDC guidance, travelers should also be aware of local and state travel restrictions, including testing requirements and quarantine orders.”