While our area is getting busier as the holidays approach and snowbirds and visitors arrive, there will be fewer travelers this Thanksgiving, according to AAA.
"We are expecting a decline," said Mark Jenkins, AAA spokesman. Those who will be traveling this Thanksgiving "prefer to drive."
AAA projects that travel by automobile is projected to fall 4.3%, to 47.8 million travelers and account for 95% of all holiday travel. In Florida, the expectation is 2.8 million travelers.
Jenkins cautioned that these figures could be even lower as Americans monitor the public health landscape, including rising COVID-19 positive case numbers, renewed quarantine restrictions and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) travel health notices.
While AAA expects this year to be the lowest Thanksgiving travel volume in four years, and the largest yearly decline since the Great Recession, residents and visitors in Charlotte County were getting ready to celebrate the holiday, but some have modified their plans this year.
Fishermen's Village was bustling with activity Wednesday as many headed for its restaurants and shops. Randi Niedeldt said she and her husband arrived from Wisconsin on Nov. 15 and would be returning home on Nov. 30. She said they were staying in an Airbnb and took many precautions during their travel and visit here.
"I am a retired PA (physician assistant)," she said. "You have to be careful; wash your hands, don't touch your face, use sanitizer and wear a mask."
She said that they planned to bring food home on Thanksgiving and share it with one other couple.
Pam Hundley, who would be flying back to her home that's outside of Chicago for the holiday, said she came to town "for a funeral." Because of her travel plans that were unexpected, she said she would not be able to see her family back home, as she would quarantine herself since she would have been flying and around others.
Alicia Loflan, who is from Deep Creek, said her family would have a traditional Thanksgiving dinner with upwards of seven people and one friend. She said they all have been together in a "bubble" so to speak, since the pandemic began. She said there was one scary scenario in her family: "My parents went on a cruise," she explained, and she said Thanksgiving plans nearly got derailed, as her mother and friend are "immuno-compromised." Fortunately, her parents are fine and the family would be together.
Crystal Doney, who is from Pennsylvania, comes down to our area for six months each season. Her friend Kathy Beck, also from Pennsylvania, was visiting Doney but planned to fly back up north before the holiday. Doney said she would be staying home this Thanksgiving.
Steve Capone who was at Fishville with his dog Brooklyn, said that his wife Nancy would be making dinner this Thanksgiving, and they would be staying home.
Brandon and Jennifer Anderson and daughter Isabella traveled from Indiana to Punta Gorda to visit Tammy Voeks, Isabella's grandmother, who is a resident here. However, they would be flying back for Thanksgiving. "We had a pre-Thanksgiving dinner," said Jennifer.
Julie Cutler from North Port said she would be staying home for Thanksgiving and invite some neighbors to enjoy a meal outdoors.
Rick Krejci from Port Charlotte said he would be going to a friend's house for his Thanksgiving dinner.
Charlotte Vana, who lives in North Port, was happy that the rest of her family moved to the area from Maryland, she said. She was shopping with her granddaughter Ashlee Vana, and said the family would enjoy a traditional Thanksgiving dinner at home with a gathering of about 11.
Rich and Margaret Accordino were visiting from New Jersey and said they would be spending Thanksgiving "at our house," Rich said.
Peter Brown and Janette Taylor said they were visiting from Massachusetts and would be returning home and having Thanksgiving dinner at their house.
Also staying home this year are New Jersey residents Jean and William Major and Robert Poff. They were spending the day at Fishermen's Village.
David and Diane Jadzinski who are from Michigan, also would be heading north and spending Thanksgiving at home. "It would be just the two of us," Diane said.
For those not flying, travelers are likely to drive shorter distances and reduce the number of days they are away, says the AAA. This makes road trips the dominant form of travel this Thanksgiving. Although the COVID-19 pandemic and unemployment are key factors in why fewer people will be traveling, for those who do, there is a perk: The average price of unleaded gasoline in Florida is expected to be around $2 per gallon for unleaded. Jenkins said that it is "the lowest price for gasoline for Thanksgiving in 12 years."
“AAA acknowledges that the decision to travel is a personal one,” said Jenkins. "The CDC says staying home is the best way to stop the spread of COVID-19. For those who still decide to travel, we urge you to take every precaution possible to protect yourself and others.”
The CDC has advised that people stay home and not travel this Thanksgiving, but for those who must, the agency has provided tips for safe traveling. For information go to its website: www.cdc.gov.