COLUMBIA - Roadway travel is expected to be near pre-pandemic levels this Thanksgiving. 

AAA plans to see a 13% travel increase from Thanksgiving travel in 2020. Additionally, this year’s Thanksgiving travels are anticipated to be the highest they’ve been since 2005. About 3.9 million people are expected to drive in the region and 48.3 million in the nation, according to AAA.

Leaving earlier in the day could help travelers avoid delayed arrivals.  Wednesday afternoon is expected to have heaviest congestion going into Thanksgiving.

“Wednesday before Thanksgiving, here in a couple days, is typically the busiest travel times especially in the afternoon and evening hours,” AAA spokesperson Nick Chabarria said.

He explained that despite fewer cars on the roads in 2020, more fatalities were reported. 

“What we’ve really seen over the last year has been very concerning on Missouri roadways and even nationwide. We know that traffic patterns have changed really with the pandemic,” Chabarria said.

The travel industry is still recovering from the impacts of COVID-19.

“The vehicle market has been severely impacted by COVID, and a large part of that is due to the semiconductor chip shortage," Chabarria said.

With the rental car shortage across the nation amidst holiday travels, places like U-Save Car & Truck Rental have had to get creative in how they adapt.

Owner Donna Musgrove said this year is unlike anything her business has experienced before.

“A lot of your rental car companies sold off probably 50% of their fleet,” Musgrove said.

As a result, travelers who need to rent a car could experience problems.

“Cars, if they do get damaged in a crash, not only will it take more time to get fixed, or you may have some difficulty finding a rental car to use in the meantime,” Chabarria said.

The limited supply of cars and the high demand could lead to increased prices. According to AAA, daily car rental rates increase 4% compared to last Thanksgiving at $98. Calling ahead or booking a rental ahead of your trip is essential.

“You’re going to pay for availability,” Musgrove said. “As cars become less available, the price is going to go up, so if you want to save money and you want to be sure you have a vehicle, reserve early."

Holiday travelers should also anticipate higher gas prices this week. Throughout the nation, gas prices are the highest they've been since 2014, according to AAA. Missouri’s average gas price is lower than the national average.

AAA has a COVID-19 travel restrictions map to help you plan ahead. 

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