This year, more Americans will be traveling and visiting in person for the Thanksgiving holiday. Sixty-one percent of those who usually celebrate Thanksgiving said they will definitely celebrate this year with friends or family in person compared to 34% last year.

While the majority of Thanksgiving celebrators plan to connect with others, a handful of them plan to do so but with COVID-19 safety precautions. The percentage of COVID-cautious celebrators only decreased by three percentage points from 2020.

Those between 35 and 54 were the most likely to say they plan to celebrate in-person without COVID precautions. While those 55 and older represent the most COVID-vulnerable population, they are the second-most-likely age group to celebrate in person without precautions. Adults 18 to 24 are the most likely to say they will connect on Thanksgiving by video call or in-person but while practicing social distancing and masking.

Thanksgiving plans cut by vaccine status show the pandemic is a powerful force this year. People who are vaccinated or plan to be vaccinated are less likely to gather in person than those who aren’t vaccinated and don’t plan to be. 

Membership club shoppers, as well as shoppers of large regional chains, are the most likely to participate in an in-person gathering, with or without COVID precautions. These types of stores should expect a more typical number of consumers looking for cranberry sauce, stuffing, pumpkin pie filling, and the usual Thanksgiving fixings. Given that super-center shoppers are some of the more likely consumers to connect with people by phone or not connect with anyone at all, the Targets and Walmarts are unlikely to see the same demand for Thanksgiving dinner foods.

Lastly, it’s clear that people don’t typically travel for Thanksgiving. Data from 2019 show that 75% of Americans who celebrate Thanksgiving intended to stay local. While that number jumped to 80% in 2020, this year we are looking at less Americans staying put than normal (pandemic aside). Twice as many Americans plan to fly somewhere this year than they did in 2019 and 2020.

The 2021 Thanksgiving season is going to look much like Thanksgivings-past, although pandemic-concerned consumers are operating similarly to how they did last year. What’s different about this year compared to even pre-pandemic holidays is the likelihood to see more travelers than usual.