March 9, 2021

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travel, Always a step ahead

How the Pandemic Has Impacted Thanksgiving Travel Plans

5 min read

By Erin El Issa

Turkey Day will look different this year for many Americans because of the pervasive impact of the Covid-19 pandemic. Three in five U.S. adults who had Thanksgiving travel plans (60%) say these plans have been affected by the pandemic, according to a new NerdWallet survey. Just 12% say their plans haven’t been impacted, and another 29% aren’t sure if they will be. And while some are still planning to travel, many are forgoing seeing loved ones in person this year.

In a NerdWallet survey of more than 2,000 Americans conducted online by The Harris Poll, we asked about how the pandemic is impacting 2020 Thanksgiving travel plans, including transportation and lodging.

Key Findings

  • Covid-19 affects plans to see loved ones: Among Americans who say their Thanksgiving travel plans have been impacted by the pandemic, 42% say they usually travel with or visit friends and family, but this year they won’t. More than a quarter (28%) say they usually drive somewhere out of town, but they won’t this year.
  • Thanksgiving travelers pivot to shorter, closer trips: Around 1 in 5 Americans (21%) plan to travel out of town for the upcoming Thanksgiving holiday, but over half of them (52%) say their plans have been affected by COVID-19. More than a quarter of those travelers impacted (26%) say they’ll spend less time away from home than usual, and 25% plan to stay closer to home than in years past.
  • Travelers opt to drive to dinner destinations: Of those who are planning Thanksgiving travel, most (75%) plan to drive for some or all of their journey.
  • Staying with family or friends beats out hotels: Close to 3 in 5 Thanksgiving travelers (57%) plan to stay at the home of a family member or friend during their travel; about a third (31%) plan to stay in a hotel or motel.

Pandemic Throws off Thanksgiving Plans

Thanksgiving traditions, like everything else, won’t be quite the same in 2020 for many American households. Of U.S. adults who say their travel plans have been impacted by the pandemic, more than 2 in 5 (42%) say they usually travel with or visit their friends and family, but this year they won’t. Close to 3 in 10 Americans (28%) usually drive somewhere out of town but won’t this year, and 13% say the same about flying somewhere for the holiday.

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