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Here’s how many Americans AAA is expecting will travel for Thanksgiving

Yahoo Finance’s Alexis Christoforous and Robert Sinclair of AAA Northeast discuss Thanksgiving weekend travel.

Video Transcript

ALEXIS CHRISTOFOROUS: The CDC is urging Americans not to travel for Thanksgiving. But millions are doing it anyway. For a closer look at travel this long holiday weekend, let's say hello to Robert Sinclair of AAA Northeast. Robert, always good to see you. I know when we see you, it means a holiday weekend is upon us.

I know the numbers are down from this time last year. But what are you seeing in terms of travel demand at AAA?

ROBERT SINCLAIR: Well, in fact, the numbers are down about 5 million from last year. 55 million traveled last year. And we projected that 50 million would travel this year.

But you have to keep in mind that we did our projections during the middle two weeks of October. And of course, the disease has come roaring back since then. Recommendations from the CDC and various governors and mayors around the country to not travel. But based on what we're seeing at the airports during the past few days, the TSA saying more than 4 million people have been checked through their checkpoints since last Friday, it looks like people are voting with their feet, and they're traveling.

Vehicle travel, we do post-holiday projections. We'll really know then how many drove. But we had anticipated originally that 95%, roughly 47 million, would drive to their destination, with many of the health authorities saying that's the safest way to do it. Some of it is going to be wait and see this year. This is a Thanksgiving like no other.

ALEXIS CHRISTOFOROUS: That's for sure. And I want to talk about the people who are driving. You know, we've been talking to a lot of people in the travel industry. And they're saying that local trips, domestic and uber local trips, have become very popular.

Gas prices are pretty nice right now for folks who are taking to the road. The national average, $2.12 a gallon, I believe, for AAA. How does that compare to this time last year?

ROBERT SINCLAIR: Well, we're seeing a lot more vehicles are on the road. Back in June, we saw used vehicle sales up 25% compared to last year, with a lot of people abandoning public transportation and buying private motor vehicles for their commutes. And certainly, it seems that the overall number of people that might be driving is down. But certainly, for the commute, that number is up.

So with more vehicles on the road, it looks like that people could possibly take a lot of driving trips. Shorter trips, certainly, would be recommended. And we're telling people that if that's what they're going to do that they prepare themselves, that they carry more beverages and snacks so they don't have to stop as often and expose themselves, but if they do have to make a stop at a rest area, for example, that they sanitize thoroughly when they get back into their vehicle. And when they go to pump that cheap gasoline-- and it's the cheapest it's been since 2004 for the Thanksgiving holiday-- that they make sure they sanitize themselves before getting back in their vehicle after pumping the gas.

ALEXIS CHRISTOFOROUS: Yeah, that's a really good idea, right? You don't want to just go touching that pump and filling up. You have to make sure you have some wipes or something there in the car with you.

I want to talk about New York City for a minute because they're going to add COVID-19 checkpoints, I've read, at certain bridges and crossings to enforce the quarantine restrictions ahead of the Thanksgiving holiday. What have you heard about that? And I'm just wondering, what is that going to do to traffic? I would think it's going to snarl it.

ROBERT SINCLAIR: Well, it's said that the sheriff's department will be enforcing that. And they're being very serious that there would be $1,000 fines for every day that someone violates that quarantine, unless you have a positive-- or I should say, a negative COVID test before taking your trip and a negative COVID test after arrival. But that seems that's going to be particularly unwieldy and very difficult to enforce.

Imagine the police force is sitting out at the bridges and tunnels, at the toll plazas watching for foreign license plates passing through. And that's another thing. Do you know that they're coming here to New York for their destination? Or are they just going to pass through?

So it looks like it will be very difficult, very unwieldy to try to enforce. But that's what they're talking about doing.

And I guess the fear is very great that the disease will be coming from those stronger yellow and red zones coming into a city, which has its own yellow and red zones right now. So it's a situation like no other. It's a brave new world, Alexis, as far as all these things that they're doing to try and prevent the spread of the disease.