Holiday travel

Here's What Local, Federal Officials Are Saying About Thanksgiving Travel

Despite universal warnings against holiday travel due to the coronavirus pandemic, authorities are issuing travel advisories for people who choose to hit the road anyway

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Despite rising coronavirus cases and warnings against unnecessary travel this holiday season, authorities in Massachusetts are issuing advisories for people who do decide to hit the roads or the airways this week.

The Massachusetts Department of Transportation is asking people who decide to drive on Thanksgiving to minimize the number of stops they make along the way.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has urged Americans not to travel at all for Thanksgiving amid the pandemic as the United States has surpassed 12 million confirmed cases of COVID-19. 

With troubling spikes in COVID-19 cases across the country, fewer people are traveling this Thanksgiving, but many are still visiting loved ones despite the recommendations of health officials.

The American Automobile Association is expecting at least a 10% drop in holiday travel this year. While air travel is expected to be down nearly 50%, according to AAA, Massport is still expecting an increase in passengers at Boston Logan International Airport around the holiday.

"I think we're going to see significant volume on the roadways because of the fact that we know that roughly 50 million Americans across the country will travel, and 95%percent of that will travel by car," said Mary Maguire, director of public and legislative affairs at AAA Southern New England.

While authorities urge against unnecessary travel this holiday season, the Massachusetts Department of Transportation is asking people who decide to hit the road anyway on Thanksgiving to limit the number of stops they make along the way.

If you do drive, AAA has some tips, including planning your route ahead of time, packing meals and snacks to minimize stops and having an emergency roadside kit.

“As per the CDC’s strong recommendation, we are asking people not to travel for Thanksgiving because of Covid-19,” Highway Administrator Jonathan Gulliver said. “But if you must be on the roadway, you are advised to plan ahead, minimize stops, be aware of all out-of-state quarantine requirements, wear a face covering if you are traveling with someone not living in your household, and take all necessary precautions to protect yourself and your family.”

In a list of guidelines specific to Thanksgiving, Massachusetts is suggesting that those who plan to host a holiday celebration keep it limited to only people you live with. The guidelines also indicate that people should consider celebrating the holiday virtually, especially if anyone is at higher risk for illness from COVID-19.

New travel restrictions took effect in Massachusetts over the weekend. People traveling to Massachusetts from New Hampshire and Maine are now required to quarantine for two weeks or provide a negative COVID-19 test.

Travelers must also fill out the Massachusetts Travel Form, according to the state's guidelines. That includes anyone who's coming from one of the low-risk states but stayed "for more than a transitory period of time in the last 14 days" in a higher-risk state. Hawaii and Vermont are the only two states currently considered low-risk.

There are exemptions for those traveling for work or going to the grocery store, but the new restrictions have some people reconsidering their plans.

"I just decided I was going to take a last minute hiking trip completely by myself," one local woman said. "I’m almost thinking about turning around because I’m wondering if this was a mistake."

"Definitely have been worried," said Monah Wisner, who was traveling by train Monday. "COVID-19 concerns are definitely something to be concerned about, and so I just follow safety precautions. Wearing my mask, social distancing and having my hand sanitizer with me."

Wisner says she will be tested after traveling, but that she is worried.

"Basically not looking forward to going home, but just because of remote learning, we do, so trying to make the best of it," Tommy Jamison, a college student heading home to Pennsylvania, said at a rest stop in Framingham.

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