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Thanksgiving 2021 travel projections? It's all gravy

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Brian Bull
/
KLCC
"Which one of you said you could drive this thing?"

While COVID-19 remains a constant concern, this year’s Thanksgiving will be one of the busiest ones for holiday travel, in Oregon and elsewhere.

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McKayla Crump
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Unsplash.com
Time lapse photo of Oregon freeway.

Travel group AAA says all across the U.S., roads, highways, and airports will be teeming with people, at a level almost as high as 2019, months before the pandemic came to the States.

Marie Dodds is the Director of Government and Public Affairs with AAA Oregon-Idaho. She told KLCC that while summer saw a strong travel season, this holiday will be “gangbusters” by comparison.

“AAA projects that more than 53 million Americans will be traveling for Thanksgiving. This is up 13% from 2020, and it includes about 746,000 Oregonians heading over the river and through the woods for turkey and all the trimmings.”

Optimism over increased vaccine access, declining COVID cases, and simply the need to see loved ones for the first time in months - even years- is driving the expected spike of people taking to the roads, freeways, and airports.

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Erik McLean
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Unsplash.com
Filling up at the station.

High holiday gas prices this Thanksgiving won’t depress travel, either.

Dodds explained that while most states including Oregon will see gas prices at least a dollar more per gallon, that won’t phase travelers one bit.

“In fact, the national average has not been as expensive for Thanksgiving since 2012, and the Oregon average has never been this expensive for the holiday,” she said.

“That is not keeping people home. 90% are driving to their holiday destination. And for folks who do need to trim expenses, they’re not going to cancel those trips, they’re still going to drive for Thanksgiving. But they’ll look at other ways to save money.”

That might mean less shopping, dining out, or staying at less expensive hotels.

Meanwhile, it’s not all just vehicular traffic for Thanksgiving.

“Even though 90% of folks are traveling by car, air travel is also seeing a huge bump,” said Dodds. “It’s notable in that the increase of 80% in air travel compared to last year.

“So we’re seeing people eager to travel by car, by plane, we’re also seeing increases in other modes, including cruises and trains.”

As with every holiday season, travelers are advised to check weather reports and road conditions before hitting the pavement, and to buckle up. The risks of distracted and impaired driving rise along with the increased number of vehicles, as stress, fatigue, or substance use including drugs and alcohol affect motorists.

Copyright 2021, KLCC.

Brian Bull joined the KLCC News Team in June 2016. In his 25+ years as a public media journalist, he's worked at NPR, Twin Cities Public Television, South Dakota Public Broadcasting, Wisconsin Public Radio, and ideastream in Cleveland. His reporting has netted dozens of accolades, including four national Edward R. Murrow Awards (19 regional), the Ohio Associated Press' Best Reporter Award, Best Radio Reporter from the Native American Journalists Association, and the PRNDI/NEFE Award for Excellence in Consumer Finance Reporting.