AAA expects fewer travelers during year-end holidays

Here are a few tips from the American Automobile Association for driving when winter storm conditions strike.

More than a million people passed through security checkpoints nationwide during the Thanksgiving holiday, despite warnings to stay home. AAA Travel, however, expects the vast majority of Americans to stay home during the year-end holidays.

Public health concerns and travel guidance are influencing their decisions. Although AAA expects at least 34 million fewer travelers compared to last year’s holiday season, as many as 84.5 million Americans may still travel from Dec. 23 through Jan. 3, a decline in travel of at least 29%.

“While Thanksgiving is traditionally spent gathering with friends and family, the year-end holidays are when Americans often venture out for longer, more elaborate vacations. That will not be the case this year,” Paula Twidale, senior vice president of AAA Travel. “Public health concerns, official guidance not to travel, and an overall decline in consumer sentiment have encouraged the vast majority of Americans to stay home for the holidays.”

If you’re one of the millions planning to travel in the next few weeks, AAA says it’s important to understand the risks involved and take steps to be safe. AAA’s COVID-19 travel restrictions map and will have the latest state and local travel restrictions to help you determine which rest stops, gas stations, restaurants and hotels are open along your route.

AAA Travel also suggests:

Plan ahead: Check with state and local officials along your route and at your destination to learn about local guidance and any restrictions that might be in place. This includes what is expected of you when you return home. Many localities are requiring COVID-19 testing prior to and after travel.

Follow public health guidance: The CDC recommends taking a COVID-19 test one to three days before travel and another three to five days after travel, plus reducing nonessential activities for seven days after travel. Travelers should be aware of these and other local and state travel restrictions, including testing requirements and quarantine orders, and additional CDC guidance for before, during and after their travels.

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. For extra peace of mind, use disinfecting wipes on door handles, steering wheels, shifters and control panels.