Sunday Is America's Busiest Travel Day of the Year

28% of Americans will hit the road on Sunday, which is the busiest departure day of the year.

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Maybe people have COVID fatigue, maybe people just miss seeing other people. The reasons aren’t clear. But nearly half of Americans surveyed say they feel that it’s safe enough to travel more now than they did three months ago. 

In fact, 28% of Americans will hit the road on Sunday, which is the busiest departure day of the year.

It turns out Americans are actually more confident about traveling than the rest of the world, according to a new TripAdvisor survey.

About 55% of Americans are planning to travel this holiday season compared to about 30% of people worldwide.

Furthermore, 70% of Americans will drive to their holiday destination, while 19% will fly. Air travel, although down overall, is up 7% from Thanksgiving. 

According to the Transportation Security Administration, officers screened more than 1.6 million people at airport checkpoints nationwide on Friday. The last time they saw those numbers was the Sunday after Thanksgiving.

The Saturday before Christmas is traditionally the busiest travel day of the year. But as coronavirus numbers spike, experts warn against unnecessary travel.

About 45% say they are visiting family, while 39% are taking some rest and relaxation by going on a vacation.

Like Thanksgiving, however, December holiday travel is down from 2019.

A lot of people ignored public health guidelines and traveled for Thanksgiving. And that was even before the U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved two COVID-19 vaccines.

"We did get together, but we wore masks," Bostonian Helga Burre said.

But this time around, a lot of people say they are staying home, citing rising coronavirus case numbers that are making them too nervous to spend Christmas with family.

“I think we’re going to stay home, stay safe this year,” one man said.

“It’s the numbers going up that made me like, ‘Okay.’ You know? Yeah," Burre said.

The new locations include the Washington Park Mall in Roxbury, the Anna M Cole Community Center in Jamaica Plain, and the Boston Renaissance Charter School in Hyde Park.

Triple A estimates that 34 million fewer Americans will travel for Christmas and the New Year holiday, and three-quarters of the country plan to stay home.

“Right now, we are projecting that air travel will be down for the end of the year holiday by about 60-percent,” AAA Northeast spokeswoman Mary Maguire said.

This all comes as gas prices continue to go up a bit, jumping an average of four cents within the past two weeks.

But staying home won't only save money, it could end up saving lives.

“Let’s actually be what Christ would have been, right? He would’ve been concerned for his fellow man. He wouldn't have been thinking about me, me, me, me,” Jamel Sharif said.

Two million people made their way past airport checkpoints on Friday and Saturday, according to the TSA, even as COVID cases rise throughout the United States. For some, spending months cooped up and the pull of seeing family and friends feels stronger than the risk of infection.

Even with many people staying home this year, Triple A predicts that nearly 85 million Americans will still travel between Dec. 23 and Jan. 3, most of them by car. If true, that would be a drop of nearly one-third from a year ago, but still a massive movement of people in the middle of a pandemic.

The busiest return day will be Sunday, Dec. 27, with 20% of travelers heading home.

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