As we move past the holiday season and into the new year, many voices echo the same thing: the holidays didn’t really feel like “the holidays” this year. Due to COVID-19 concerns and cancellations, many Americans skipped over their usual holiday traditions like parties, religious services, and, notably, travel.
Changes towards travel plans came at different times for many Americans. Well before the final weeks of December, survey results showed that around 29% of Americans had cancelled their plans to travel for family gatherings. Still, for many other Americans, positive COVID-19 results reported during the week of the holidays led to last-minute cancellations.
Still, even with many people refraining from travel, or choosing to travel only by car, the TSA reported that for the six days before Christmas Eve, near or more than a million individuals traveled by plane.
Those who did make the trip to the airport experienced holiday travel like no other. Many airports included health and safety questionnaires in their pre-flight check-ins. Airlines also took heavy precautions to assure that COVID-19 was not spreading, passing out sanitizing wipes and gel. Some airlines even alerted passengers if their flights would be especially full, giving passengers the option to take a less crowded flight.
For those who did choose to travel though, there was still considerable risk to be had. Before the holiday season started, experts from the CDC warned people to refrain from travelling, gathering, and acting carelessly during the holidays. And now, as CDC experts predicted, those travellers are spreading the infection at record rates, starting the new year off with surges in nearly every state.
However, even though we are all seeing the dire results of travel from the holiday season, many people are still hoping that they will be able to finally make postponed trips in 2021. Unfortunately, there’s no clear answer as to when travel will ultimately be completely safe for individuals and their contacts. Some individuals anticipate that airlines may require proof of vaccination to fly and most anticipate that rigorous testing will continue to be a part of the traveling experience, the New York Times reported.
Perhaps the one saving grace in all of this has been the acceleration towards virtual gatherings. Over 20% of individuals had planned to celebrate their 2020 holidays virtually, suggesting that many are willing to forgo travel for safety and find creative ways to connect. Who knows? While 2021 may bring huge public health advancements, perhaps it will also bring technological developments that make online connection easier.
Here’s hoping that the new year brings safety and connection, no matter where we’re staying or (hopefully) travelling.