The latest research from Cars.com reports nearly half of Americans (46%) plan to travel for December holidays.1 COVID-19 is increasingly impacting travel decisions and prompting the majority of travelers (66%) to use their personal vehicles as opposed to flying or taking mass transit.2 As virus cases continue to rise across the country, the number of Americans planning to travel for the New Year’s holiday is shrinking.
“Many people are staying home for the holidays as suspected, and those who are traveling will continue to rely on their personal vehicle. For most holiday travelers, the decision to drive is no longer primarily influenced by cost or convenience, but safety and security,” said Jenni Newman, Cars.com editor-in-chief. “Cars.com has been tracking travel plans since October and has steadily seen the number of New Year’s travelers dwindle. This could mean that people are unwilling to give up time with family but more likely to pass on this year’s New Year’s party.”
Cars.com’s holiday survey asked more than 1,000 Americans about their December travel plans and compared the results against the 2020 Cars.com Thanksgiving travel survey.
The top 2020 December holiday travel trends, according to Cars.com, include:
- Travelers choose cars over planes and trains. With most travelers using personal cars (66%), only 30% of holiday travelers are flying, with 11% taking the train, 9% traveling by bus and 7% using ride-hailing or taxis.
- COVID-19 impacts December travel more than Thanksgiving. For December, 66% of Americans’ travel plans changed due to the coronavirus pandemic, compared to 54% reported at Thanksgiving.
- Americans are ready to ring in 2021 but plan to celebrate at home. Only 33% of Americans plan to travel for New Year’s, down from 41% when asked in October, likely due to rising COVID-19 cases and renewed travel restrictions.
- Major cities see an uptick in holiday travel. Thanksgiving travelers (44%) avoided large cities (especially those hit hardest by COVID-19), compared to just 28% of December holiday travelers. The top three major cities for holiday travelers include New York, Los Angeles and Atlanta.
- Congestion expected Wednesday and Thursday mornings. The busiest travel days are Dec. 23 from 6 a.m. to 9 a.m. and Dec. 24 from 9 a.m to noon Central time.
“When it comes to important decisions like whether to celebrate the holidays in person or virtually this year, we recommend following Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines and staying up to date with local COVID-19 rules and restrictions to make the best decision for you and your loved ones,” added Newman.