NewsLocal News


Holiday travel down for the first time in 11 years amid COVID-19 pandemic

Millions defy warnings, still travel
Posted at 12:14 PM, Dec 23, 2020
and last updated 2020-12-23 13:14:27-05

MILWAUKEE — AAA Travel is predicting 34 million fewer Americans will travel during this year-end holiday season, compared to last year.

In Wisconsin, because of the COVID-19 pandemic, the group predicts a drop in travel by about 30% to 1.7 million Wisconsinites traveling, down from 2.2. million in 2019.

At Milwaukee's Mitchell International Airport on the Wednesday before Christmas, just one day before Christmas Eve, TSA terminals were nearly empty.

Anais Engle was there flying to Boston to meet up with her dad for the holidays. Vince Komar was heading to Hawaii to meet family, and Greg Zyla and his wife Terri were heading to Georgia to meet up with their daughter.

"Normally we have a Christmas party at our house with about 50 people, but this year because of COVID, we are obviously not going to have the party, so we are going to visit our daughter in Georgia," said Zyla.

Each airline passenger wore masks and stayed socially distanced and said they trust the measures airlines have been taking to keep planes safe.

Most also said they were preparing to avoid large gatherings, which has been repeatedly recommended by most health officials. But, most health officials are also encouraging Americans to stay home.

"I don't think we should be afraid to travel. I’m not going to stop living my life because of this," said Zyla.

Nationwide, the TSA is seeing the largest uptick of passengers moving through its checkpoints since the start of the pandemic.

Over the weekend leading up to Christmas, more than 3 Million passengers were screened. On Monday and Tuesday of this week, nearly 2 Million passengers were screened.

Still, that more than 5 million passengers is way down from the more than 12 million passengers screened during the same time period in 2019.

AAA says the roads are likely to be less busy as well.

"There are less drivers probably on the road in Wisconsin, and probably in every other state, due to the CDC guidelines and them urging them not to travel, urging them to stay home and people are listening and choosing to stay home," said Molly Hart, AAA Spokesperson.

Drivers who were still hitting the road say they noticed less traffic today.

"Oh! There’s nobody out," said Adam Brown as he passed through Racine from Appleton on his way to Bloomington, Indiana.

He's heading home to see his 79-year-old mother, who would otherwise be alone. He says he has been following strict protocols to protect both himself and his mom from COVID-19.

"I come home from work, I still disrobe in the garage, I go straight to the shower, we keep ourselves clean, I’ve been masked since day one, I wash my hands and sanitize throughout the day," he said.

Still, the CDC website clearly states, "As cases, hospitalizations, and deaths continue to increase across the United States, the safest way to celebrate the winter holidays is to celebrate at home with people who live with you."

The CDC recommends only gathering with people who live in the same household as you.

AAA says this will be the first time in 11 years where the number of people traveling during year-end holidays will decrease instead of increase.
Report a typo or error // Submit a news tip