More than 85% of West Virginia residents not traveling for Thanksgiving

BECKLEY, WV. (WOAY) – A new survey by AAA indicates that a large majority of West Virginia residents will not be traveling for the Thanksgiving holiday, and almost a third of those staying home say it is because of COVID-19 concerns.

“Given the recent surge in COVID-19 and the strong urging of public health officials for everyone to stay home for the holiday, the Thanksgiving travel landscape continues to change,” says Jenifer Moore, AAA spokeswoman. “With that in mind, AAA conducted a new poll asking West Virginia residents who have decided against traveling for the holiday whether COVID-19, specifically, was the reason – and 34% said yes.”

The new AAA survey provides this snapshot:

  • 86% of West Virginia residents surveyed will be staying home for the Thanksgiving holiday…
    • 31% say they are not traveling because of COVID-19
    • 69% say they were not planning to travel anyway
  • 86% of West Virginia residents surveyed said they perceive traveling at this time poses a risk…
    • 11% calling that risk ‘significant’

Of the survey respondents still planning to travel for the Thanksgiving holiday:

  • 88% plan to drive
  • 11% plan to fly
  • 1% – plan to travel by some ‘other’ mode of transportation (bus, train)

The AAA survey of 954 West Virginia residents was conducted Nov. 12/13 by Public Policy Polling. The survey has a margin of error of +/- 3.2%.

What to Expect on the Roads

Of those who do still plan to travel, most will be driving to their holiday destinations so motorists should expect they’ll have company on the roads.

“Although Thanksgiving is typically a driving holiday, it should be noted that, since the beginning of COVID, those who have decided to travel this year have predominantly done so by car where they can have greater control over their environment and the ability to modify plans at the last minute,” Moore adds.

AAA reminds those hitting the road to plan their route ahead. To minimize the number of stops along the way, pack meals, extra snacks and drinks in addition to an emergency roadside kit – including extra masks and wipes.

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. In addition to CDC guidance, travelers should also be aware of local and state travel restrictions, including testing requirements and quarantine orders in the states you are traveling to, through and also upon your return.

An interactive map with the latest COVID-19 related restrictions for all states can be found at TripTik.AAA.com.

No Holiday for AAA Emergency Roadside Rescue

Despite the drop in number of people traveling for the holiday, AAA is expecting thousands of calls for Emergency Roadside Service. Last year over the Thanksgiving holiday, AAA responded to more than 200 calls for help, throughout West Virginia.

“COVID-19 adds an extra layer of complexity to all interactions, including roadside emergency calls, so this year it is more important than ever for all motorists to ensure that their vehicles are road-ready, even if they are just driving across town,” Moore adds.

For those who do need help, AAA makes it easy to request assistance – by phone, app or online – and members can track the service technician’s progress as they make their way to your vehicle.

Road Trippers to Be Met with Lower Gas Prices

Those who do decide to hit the road for Thanksgiving will find cheaper gas prices. On average, gas prices nationally are nearly 50 cents cheaper than this time last year, with October averages the lowest in more than 15 years.

Here in West Virginia, the average price of gas on Wednesday was $2.14, which is five cents cheaper than a month ago and 41 cents cheaper than last year at this time.

What to Know Before You Go

  • Plan Ahead. Check with state and local authorities where you are, along your route, and at your planned destination to learn about local circumstances and any restrictions that may be in place.
  • Follow Public Health Guidance. Consistent use of face masks combined with social distancing (at least 6 feet) and regular handwashing are the best ways to lower your risk of contracting COVID-19. Be sure to pack face masks, disinfecting wipes, hand sanitizer and a thermometer to help protect and monitor your health. Also pack water and extra snacks to reduce the need to stop along your trip.
  • Verify Before You Go. Call ahead to minimize any last minute surprises.
    • Hotels – Prior to any hotel stay, call ahead to ensure your hotel is open and ask what precautions they are taking to protect guests. Ask about social distancing protocols like capacity reductions in common spaces, hotel staff requirements to wear masks at all times and if all amenities are available, like restaurant dining.
    • Car rentals – If renting a car, ask what has been done to clean the vehicle. Hertz, for example, has introduced Hertz Gold Standard Clean, an enhanced vehicle disinfectant and sanitization process. For extra peace of mind, use disinfecting wipes to wipe down door handles, steering wheels, shifters and control panels.
  • Helpful AAA Resources. Visit AAA’s COVID-19 Travel Restrictions Map for the latest state and local travel restrictions. Use TripTik.AAA.com to plan your road trip and help determine which rest stops, gas stations, restaurants and hotels are open along your route.

 

What to expect if you are Flying

AAA anticipates Thanksgiving air travel will see the largest one-year decrease on record.

Several airlines have been waiving change fees for would-be Thanksgiving travelers who decide not to go at this time.

If flying, AAA reminds air travelers that in-flight amenities, including food and beverage services, may not be available. Also, as a precaution, wipe down your seat, armrest, belt buckle and tray table using disinfecting wipes.

AAA National Thanksgiving holiday forecast

Based on mid-October economic forecast models, before the newest surge in COVID cases nationwide, AAA would have expected up to 50 million Americans to travel for Thanksgiving – a drop from 55 million in 2019 – based on previous projections. However, as the holiday approaches and Americans monitor the public health landscape, the actual number of holiday travelers is expected to be lower than we have seen in years.

Tyler Barker
Tyler Barker is currently the News Director and Digital Content Manager for WOAY-TV. He was promoted to this job in Mid-November. He still will fill in on weather from time to time. You can follow Tyler on Facebook and Twitter @wxtylerb. Have any news tips or weather questions? Email him at tbarker@woay.com