SACRAMENTO, Calif. (KTXL) — The day before Thanksgiving is the traditional start of the holiday travel season but COVID-19 may be disrupting 2020 travel plans in more ways than one.
AAA expects 13% fewer Californians to be traveling during the long Thanksgiving weekend and travel nationally is expected to be down 10%.
Nearly half a million Golden State residents say they will travel by air, train, bus, and even cruise ships.
Air travel is expected to be down 50% and those who flew earlier this week into Sacramento International Airport told FOX40 they felt safe in a less crowded environment.
“I was skeptical but I knew that flying back and forth that everyone was going to be on edge and trying to keep their distance and everything,” said airline passenger Macy Roth.
“It was fabulous, I wish it was always this way,” said airline passenger Helena Snyder.
But the large majority of California travelers, 5.8 million people, will be in vehicles on state highways in the next four to five days.
Dimeezhi Washington told FOX40 that he will stay at home with family on Thanksgiving but understands why so many people choose to make long road trips.
“Disinfect your car the way you want, you know what’s in your car. You know who’s in your car, who’s in your family that doesn’t have COVID-19, so I think it’ll be better to drive,” Washington said.
Travel forecasters said one reason people choose to drive to their destinations on the holidays is because of the flexibility it offers. But travel flexibility does not take into account the surge of COVID-19 cases in California and the appeal by health experts to stay at home.
People who were filling up at an Arco gas station on El Camino Avenue Wednesday told FOX40 that they weren’t traveling far for the holiday weekend.
“The nation’s pretty afraid of what’s going on, so people are hunkering down and staying at home,” explained motorist Chris Goulas.
Some have good reason not to mingle at a holiday gathering.
“I’m 83, so I’m in that bunch that are most likely to get it,” said cancer survivor Doug King.
Some travel forecasters said it’s impossible to get a handle on exactly how many people will be on the road this holiday season.
One clue might be the price of gas, which is more than $0.40 per gallon cheaper than during the same period in 2019. The supply and demand model would indicate that oil companies don’t expect much demand for gasoline.
In ordinary times, cheaper gas would encourage highway travel, but now there could be more urgent priorities.
“COVID can take your life, gas doesn’t,” Washington said. “COVID-19 can take your life. A lot of people have passed away during this year.”
Regardless of how many motorists are expected on California roadways, the California Highway Patrol will begin its holiday maximum enforcement period beginning at 6 p.m. Wednesday, when officers will be looking for drivers under the influence and those driving unsafely.
Each year, dozens of people are killed in road accidents on the extended Thanksgiving weekend.