Thanksgiving Travel 2020: Worst Times To Travel From Charlotte

Kimberly Johnson
·3 min read

CHARLOTTE, NC — If you plan to travel this Thanksgiving, it’s likely you’ll see significantly fewer vehicles on Charlotte metro roads due to the coronavirus pandemic. However, there are times you may want to avoid if you’re hoping for a smooth trip without delays, according to the American Automobile Association.

AAA recently released its annual Thanksgiving travel forecast, which looks a lot different from those in previous years.

As public health and government officials stress staying home this Thanksgiving to protect yourself and others from the coronavirus, AAA anticipates at least a 10 percent drop in travel this year — the largest one-year decrease since the 2008 Great Recession.

However, travelers in major urban areas are likely to see increased delays at typical bottlenecks — up to 30 percent above normal pandemic congestion levels.

In this year’s Thanksgiving travel forecast, AAA predicts those traveling on Wednesday afternoon are most likely to experience traffic delays and congestion.

If you plan to travel from the Charlotte metro and want to avoid the rush, be aware that Wednesday afternoon is expected to be the peak travel time throughout the Carolinas. "Although traffic volume is expected to be less than in years’ past, travelers in major urban areas will experience increased delays at popular bottlenecks, up to 30 percent above normal pandemic congestion levels," AAA said.

According to Google, the best time to leave the Charlotte area on a road trip is Wednesday at 4 a.m., and the worst time is 4 p.m. After the holiday, Friday, Nov. 27 at 4 a.m. is the best time to leave the Charlotte area, and the worst time is Saturday at 4 p.m.

Based on a model from mid-October, AAA initially expected up to 50 million Americans to travel this Thanksgiving, a decrease from 55 million in 2019.

However, as coronavirus cases continue to spike and state leaders impose new restrictions, AAA now expects the actual number of holiday travelers to be even lower.

“The decision to travel is a personal one,” Paula Twidale, senior vice president for AAA Travel, said in a release. “For those who are considering making a trip, the majority will go by car, which provides the flexibility to modify holiday travel plans up until the day of departure.”

Those who do decide to travel are expected to drive shorter distances this year and reduce the number of days they spend away from home, AAA predicts. Travel by car is expected to account for 95 percent of all travel this Thanksgiving, while travel by air is expected to drop by nearly 48 percent.

Those traveling by car will also enjoy cheap gas prices. On average, gas prices nationwide are nearly 50 cents cheaper than last year, with October averages at a 15-year-low.

Still, AAA suggests travelers keep in mind they’re traveling during a pandemic and should heed a few tips before they hit the road:

  • Plan ahead. Check with state and local authorities where you are, along your route, and at your planned destination to learn about local circumstances and any restrictions that may be in place.

  • Minimize stops along the way. Pack meals, extra snacks and drinks in addition to an emergency roadside kit.

  • Follow public health guidance. Use face masks and remember to socially distance. Wash your hands regularly and be sure to pack disinfecting wipes, hand sanitizer and a thermometer to help protect and monitor your health.

  • Check with your hotel. Prior to any hotel stay, call ahead to ensure your hotel is open and ask what precautions it is taking and what requirements are in place to protect guests.

For other helpful travel guidance from AAA, visit the organization’s COVID-19 Travel Restrictions Map for the latest state and local travel restrictions. You can also use to plan your road trip and help determine which rest stops, gas stations, restaurants and hotels are open along your route.


This article originally appeared on the Charlotte Patch