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Fewer people expected to hit the road this Christmas

Fewer people expected to hit  the road this Christmas Fewer people expected to hit  the road this Christmas

AAA Travel expects the vast majority of Americans to stay home this holiday season. Public health concerns and travel guidance are influencing their decisions not to travel over the year-end holidays, a period that typically sees high demand for vacations. While 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 percent.

More than 2.2 million Wisconsinites traveled last year during the holiday season and this year is showing a 30.2 percent decrease with 1.7 million travelers.

“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,” said Paula Twidale, senior vice president, 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.”

The CDC urges Americans not to travel for the holidays this year, warning that travel increases your chance of getting and spreading COVID-19.

For those who make the personal decision to travel, it is important to understand the risks involved and take steps to keep yourself and others safe. Seek the advice of a trusted travel advisor and refer to AAA’s COVID-19 Travel Restrictions Map and for the latest state and local travel restrictions, and to help determine which rest stops, gas stations, restaurants and hotels are open along your route.

-- Plan Ahead. Check with state and local

officials along your route and at your destination to learn about local guidance and any restrictions that may 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.

Holiday travelers are continuing to take a wait-and-see approach to their travel decisions. With COVID-19 cases steadily increasing this month, the expected continued rise will likely prompt some Americans to make last minute decisions to not follow through with upcoming travel plans, which was the trend during the lead 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 percent from 2019. While final Thanksgiving travel numbers are not yet available, AAA expects the decline to be closer to 15–20 percent, as the CDC and state and local authorities advised against holiday travel. Most Americans who decide to travel will do so by car, with road trips accounting for 96 percent of holiday travel. Up to 81 million Americans will travel by car, a decline of at least 25 percent compared to last year. Auto travel is expected to replace some trips previously taken by bus, train or airplane, given the flexibility, security and comfort traveling by car provides.

Packaging cheer for those on the front lines

The Spencer Middle School Student Council gathered for its first in-person, socially distanced meeting on Dec. 9. The group enjoyed putting together goodie bags to bring holiday cheer to those working the front lines, those who are in nursing homes and don’t see their family as much, and for teachers in the Middle School. The stockings for the nursing homes were filled with socks, puzzle books, pens, hard candy, lip balm, and hand-made ornaments. The goodie bags for front-line workers included sanitizer, chocolates, mints, lip balm, and a hand-made thank you ornament. Teachers will receive hot chocolate in a Mason jar, along with handmade ornaments that state “Teachers can virtually do anything!”