Only 3% of Americans will fly over Thanksgiving

This Thanksgiving, there will be far fewer air travelers and more modified celebrations, mostly due to concerns about the risks of COVID-19. In fact, only 3% of the more than 2,000 US consumers in a recent ValuePenguin survey said they would fly outside of their home country for the holiday weekend. Additionally, a third of people plan to spend Turkey Day with only their immediate household.

Here’s a closer look at how Thanksgiving travel plans (and related expenses) can be different this year.

Main conclusions

  • Only 3% of Americans plan to travel to another state during the Thanksgiving holiday. The majority (59%) stay at home, while 19% travel to another city in their state.
  • The risk of coronavirus has been the main deciding factor in making Thanksgiving plans, according to 49% of consumers. The second most popular consideration was what their family wants to do (41%), followed by traditions (31%).
  • 57% of Americans will celebrate Thanksgiving with people they don’t live with. Notably, 22% of Gen Z will see their grandparents in person, as will 11% of Millennials (7%).
  • 4 in 10 respondents said they expected fights at the table for Thanksgiving. Of this group, most (40%) believe that politics will be the cause.

Few consumers will steal this Thanksgiving

Airports are going to be relatively quiet during what is traditionally one of the busiest air travel weeks of the year: only 3% of consumers plan to travel by air out of state. For the rest, about 6 in 10 plan to stay home, almost 3 in 10 plan to drive by car, and almost 1 in 10 still haven’t decided what to do.

Fewer flights also mean lower travel costs for most, with consumers planning to spend just $ 140.72 on Thanksgiving-related travel this year. Parents with kids under 18 will spend a bit more – $ 240.94.

There are plenty of reasons to spend less on Thanksgiving travel this year, said Matt Schulz, Chief Credit Analyst at ValuePenguin. “Many simply cannot afford it, having lost their jobs or seen their income reduced due to COVID. Others can afford it but are understandably still reluctant to travel, as COVID has made a big comeback across the country. these last weeks. “

On the plus side, 71% of Thanksgiving travelers plan to use a reward credit card and earn points when they travel by plane, train, bus, or car.

“With so many people not traveling in the past six to nine months, a lot of people have racked up points and miles during that time,” Schulz said. For those who are willing to take a chance and get on a plane or stay in a hotel while on vacation, that could mean big savings.

Others who don’t go far can still use rewards to save money at the gas station or increase their grocery budget. “If you don’t take advantage of credit card rewards, you are leaving money on the table,” Schulz said.

About half of Thanksgiving plans are based on coronavirus risk

There is no doubt that the pandemic has taken a heavy toll on the minds of families trying to decide whether to cut back on their typical Thanksgiving reunions. Almost half (49%) said the risk of coronavirus was the main consideration, followed by what their family wants to do (41%) and traditions (31%).

Factors Consumers Consider When Making Thanksgiving Plans

The risk of coronavirus may also explain why 35% of Americans have decided that the safest bet is to spend the day with only the people they live with. But some plan to celebrate with family and friends outside the home, including parents (20%), siblings (18%), adult children (14%) and grandparents (7%) . Only 12% said they dined out.

How consumers will celebrate Thanksgiving amid the coronavirus pandemic
Who consumers plan to see in person on Thanksgiving

40% expect arguments at the table, especially about politics

With a controversial election and pandemic tension dominating headlines year round, it’s no surprise that many consumers expect heated discussions around the dinner table. The age group most likely to expect an argument were millennials, while more men than women said fighting was inevitable.

Politics was selected as the hottest topic by 4 out of 10 respondents (no surprise there), with family drama the second most popular topic (31%). Rounding out the first three is a brand new category specific to 2020 – pandemic-related disagreements (20%).

Topics some consumers expect to fight over at the Thanksgiving dinner table

Tips for a safer Thanksgiving

With so much uncertainty, Thanksgiving travel plans and holiday celebrations will likely be different – and possibly cheaper – this year for many families. Here are some public health guidelines for celebrating Thanksgiving in the safest way possible amid the pandemic:

Celebrate in small groups. While every family situation is unique, consider narrowing down large group gatherings from the past to your immediate household, as directed by the Director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). You can of course invite other people to your “virtual” Thanksgiving table.

Minimize travel. As infection rates rise, more people are choosing to travel by car over the plane, while many more are staying at home. Staying at home, however, is the best way to protect your loved ones.

Follow safety precautions. If you are gathering, consider moving your feast outside, spread out and wear masks except when eating, advises the CDC. Also, wash your hands often, don’t share utensils (single-use plastic is best), and open windows in the house to increase ventilation.

While it can be difficult to be separated from loved ones, knowing that they are safe and that they spend less on travel are two benefits you can focus on. “Maybe some of the money saved on travel can go towards a little more food on the Thanksgiving table or maybe a better gift for someone for Christmas,” Schulz said.


ValuePenguin commissioned Qualtrics to conduct an online survey of 2,021 Americans, with the sample base proportioned to represent the overall population. The survey was conducted from October 9 to 13, 2020.

The generations are defined as the following ages in 2020:

  • Generation Z: 18-23 years old

  • Millennials: 24-39 years old

  • Generation X: 40-54 years

  • Baby boomers: 55-74 years

  • Silent generation: 75 years and over

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