Editors: Video soundbites of Auto Club spokesperson Doug Shupe discussing the forecast are available for your use here.
The vast majority of Southern California residents are expected to skip their traditional year-end holiday trips due to concerns and stay-at-home orders related to the COVID-19 pandemic, according to the Automobile Club of Southern California.
Compared to last year, the Auto Club projects a drop of at least 37% in the number of Southern California travelers who will take trips during the 12-day Christmas-New Year period from Dec. 23 through Jan. 3. Automobile travel is expected to drop by more than 34%, air travel to drop by at least 54%, and other modes of travel such as buses and trains are expected to be down by at least 87%. More than 76% of Southern Californians will be staying home.
By the numbers: 2020 Year-End Holiday Travel Forecast
“With health experts urging people to avoid travel to prevent spreading COVID-19 this holiday season, the Auto Club is encouraging would-be travelers to start planning their vacations for 2021 and 2022,” said Filomena Andre, the Auto Club’s vice president for travel products and services. “Almost all quality travel providers have implemented cancellation policies that make it easy to plan a future vacation that can be altered, delayed or cancelled without penalty in most cases.”
Holiday travelers are continuing to take a wait-and-see approach to their travel decisions. With COVID‑19 cases steadily increasing this month, the surge will likely prompt some to make last-minute decisions to cancel year-end holiday travel plans, which was the trend during days leading up to Thanksgiving.
Based on mid-October travel forecast models, AAA expected up to 50 million people would travel for the Thanksgiving holiday, which would have been a decline of 10% from 2019. While final Thanksgiving travel numbers are not yet available, AAA expects the decline for that holiday was closer to 15–20%, as the CDC and state and local authorities advised against holiday travel.
For those who do make the personal decision to travel for the year-end holidays, the Auto Club urges them to know the risks and minimize them by taking the following steps:
- Bring along enough personal protective gear and hand sanitizer for all those traveling for each day of travel, as well as a thermometer to monitor your health.
- Bring cleaning supplies to wipe down surfaces in locations where you stay overnight.
- Use protective barriers such as plastic baggies or gloves to open doors, fill up the gas tank, or touch any other surfaces in public places. Throw them away after use.
- Minimize your travel stops by bringing along your own snacks, food, and drinks. Use drive-throughs or curbside pickup at restaurants if you do stop.
- When visiting family members or friends, or when making travel stops, remember to socially distance, wear masks, and frequently wash your hands.
- Know the COVID-19 restrictions along the route you will be traveling and at your destination. You can quickly access them by mapping out your route at AAA.com/TripTik and using the COVID-19 restrictions feature.
- Before you head out, be sure your vehicle is ready for the trip to avoid a breakdown along the way. AAA expects to rescue more than 905,000 Americans at the roadside during the 12-day holiday period. AAA makes it easy to request assistance – by phone, app or online – and members can track the service technician’s progress as they make their way to your vehicle.
Traffic Bottlenecks Expected to Drop This Holiday
Because this holiday period is spread out over 12 days, the transportation analytics firm INRIX expects far fewer holiday-related traffic bottlenecks. The worst traffic delay for travelers in the greater Los Angeles area is projected by INRIX to be a 30-minute delay along I-5 South between Colorado Street and I-605 on Tuesday, Dec. 29 at 5:15 p.m.
AAA’s projections are based on economic forecasting and research by IHS Markit, a London-based business information provider. In cooperation with AAA, IHS Markit developed a unique methodology to forecast actual domestic travel volumes, using macroeconomic drivers such as employment; output; household net worth; asset prices including stock indices; interest rates; housing market indicators and variables related to travel and tourism, including prices of gasoline, airline travel and hotel stays. For the 2020 Thanksgiving holiday travel forecast, IHS Markit also examined changes in the IHS Markit containment index regarding local COVID-19-related restrictions as well as the national case count and trend.