GasBuddy study projects 45 percent fewer travelers on the road this Thanksgiving

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The 2020 Thanksgiving travel season will be notably different this year due to COVID-19.

GasBuddy, in its 2020 Annual Thanksgiving Travel Survey, finds that only 35 percent of Americans will be taking to the roads this year, a decrease from 65 percent from last year, amidst some of the lowest Thanksgiving gas prices the country has seen in years.

The national average gas price is projected to be $2.17 per gallon, lower this year due to the COVID-19 response depressing demand for gasoline and plunging oil prices from year ago levels, keeping Americans closer to home and away from their normal driving routines.

“Gasoline demand has continued to struggle as the coronavirus has kept Americans in their homes and keys out of their cars, working and e-learning from home. But with positive outcomes from two vaccine trials, we’re beginning to see optimism return, leading prices to rise slightly just in time for Thanksgiving,” says Patrick De Haan, head of petroleum analysis at GasBuddy. “However, the survey results show continued anxiety from motorists even with the lowest Thanksgiving gas prices in years, highlighting the challenges we’re facing in this pandemic.”

Nearly half (46 percent) of respondents in GasBuddy’s Annual Thanksgiving Travel Survey said that their travel plans are impacted by COVID-19. When asked in what ways they were impacted, 71 percent said they are staying home instead of traveling this year.

Five percent said they are not even celebrating Thanksgiving this year. The remainder are either celebrating Thanksgiving at a different location this year (20 percent), or driving instead of taking other forms of transportation to their Thanksgiving destination (11 percent).
Of interest is that low gas prices are luring people to travel more than ever before. Fifteen percent of those who said they are planning to travel said they are doing so to take advantage of gas prices, a significant jump compared to 6 percent of people saying the same last year and 2 percent in 2018.

“Typically during the holidays, it’s all about traditions and less about the cost, even when gas prices were over $3, plenty of Americans didn’t hesitate to travel for Thanksgiving,” said De Haan. “With Americans still concerned about traveling by plane, many families will take advantage of low prices and make a road trip when they otherwise wouldn’t.”

Those who are traveling are taking shorter trips than in years past, with survey results seeing a 75 percent increase in those who are traveling less than one hour to their Thanksgiving destination compared to 2019.

Travel tips

  • Watch for price differences between state lines: Gas prices can vary as much as $20 per tank in some areas of the country between state lines. Using a gas discount card like Pay with GasBuddy®can lower your gas bill by as much as 25 cents per gallon.
  • Use the GasBuddy app to find cheap gas and clean restrooms:GasBuddy’s free app allows drivers to search for gas stations with the lowest-priced fuel as well as the cleanest restrooms along their route.

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