If you’re thinking about hitting the road for the Thanksgiving holidays, you’re far from alone.
According to a new survey by Cars.com, 57% of those polled plan to travel 50 miles or more for Thanksgiving. That’s a 46% increase versus 2021, when Coronavirus concerns led people to stay home and eat their turkey, giblets and cranberry in solitude.
There is no such anxiety this year as the poll also reveals that among Americans who are traveling, nearly 6 in 10, are going farther than usual, with 34% journeying more than 100 miles.
“With more companies turning to permanent remote or hybrid schedules for American workers coupled with ongoing pandemic concerns, holiday travel decisions are shifting and providing a more compelling reason to drive personal vehicles over other forms of transportation,” said Mike Hanley, Cars.com senior editor. “For many, the lower costs, increased flexibility and added convenience are enough to tip the scale in favor of road trips this holiday season.”
The pandemic still looms large in travel plans
In other words, Coronavirus concerns haven’t vanished, unlike — say — the willingness wear a mask, or being gracious to your fellow travelers. This is why 84% of Thanksgiving travelers are getting to grandma’s house by car, truck, SUV crossover, minivan or Uber.
Yet resistance to air travel is understandable. With American Airlines cancelling more than 1,400 flights Halloween weekend, and Southwest canceling more than 2,000 flights between Oct. 8 and Oct. 13, and Spirit Airlines eliminating 6% of its schedule last month, the specter of not reaching home for the holidays in very real.
Then there are the crowded airports, mask mandates, cramped seats and planes packed with screaming babies, whining dogs, grouchy people not to mention the total lack of any food service while flying, aside from a Lilliputian pack of Goldfish crackers. It’s little wonder the allure of the open road seems far more appealing, no matter how heavy the traffic. And personal transportation is far more convenient for the 65% of respondents who are traveling with children and 39% who are bringing along pets.
And have you noticed the price of gas? It’s enough to give you heartburn
But there’s a caveat; 50% said gas prices have some impact on their travel plans, and 12% said they won’t drive if gas prices get any higher. And for the record, the national average price for a gallon of gas is $3.42 for regular, $3.76 for mid-grade, $4.04 for premium, $3.65 for diesel, and $3.05 for E85, according to AAA, as of Nov. 15.
This compares with last year’s price of $2.13, $2.48, $2.74, $2.39, and $1.95 respectively. Still, it’s a lot cheaper than Bud Light, which can easily cost about $9 a gallon.
However, nearly 1 in 4 say the pandemic is the reason they’re staying home, while nearly half say they don’t travel on Thanksgiving. A remaining 21% can’t afford to travel.
And why are so many people traveling? Seventy percent are visiting family, and odds are they live in the Southeast, where 36% will end up, followed by the Mid-Atlantic at 17%.
Oh, and one more thing. Given the travel onslaught that Thanksgiving typically causes, keep in mind that 48% of drivers plan to leave the weekend prior to Thanksgiving, now that so many of people work remotely.