The 2020 Thanksgiving holiday saw an unusual reversal in travel habits to and from the Vineyard, with a significantly higher proportion of off-Islanders coming than in years past while an even higher percentage of Islanders decided to stay put during the week.

Steamship Authority travel data for the boat line’s Vineyard and Nantucket routes show that although overall automobile travel numbers were essentially on par with 2019, off-Island vehicles were up 12.7 per cent while on-Island vehicle travel was down 30.4 per cent.

Provided by SSA spokesman Sean Driscoll, the data compares the rates of standard fare versus excursion fare vehicles on the Woods Hole to Vineyard Haven and Hyannis to Nantucket routes. Excursion fares are available only to registered voters on Martha’s Vineyard or Nantucket with a state driver’s license, and must originate on the Islands.

Numbers span from the Saturday before Thanksgiving to the Sunday after for both 2019 and 2020.

In an email, SSA treasurer Mark Rozum and Mr. Driscoll confirmed that the data showed a higher rate of off-Island travel and more Islanders deciding to stay home.

Gov. Charlie Baker has instituted tight travel restrictions for out-of-state visitors that require a negative test within 72 hours of travel for anyone traveling from a state not designated low risk by the Center for Disease Control. All states in the country — except Hawaii — are now not considered low risk. Governor Baker also urged in-state residents to stay home for the holiday.

Boat line data showed that Vineyard travelers largely abided by the regulations, or at least adapted their travel plans for the week. In 2019, data showed that 5,776 excursion-rate vehicles traveled during the holiday week while only 4,021 traveled in 2020, meaning 1,755 fewer vehicles left the Island this year.

Meanwhile, data shows that off-Island travel actually increased in 2020 compared to 2019, with 824 more vehicles making the trip to the Islands. While 6,491 vehicles traveled in 2019, 7,315 traveled in 2020.

Overall, vehicle traffic to and from the Islands, including excursion fares, was down 7.4 per cent during the holiday week from 2019 numbers, although the specific, day-by-day numbers show a unique trend that was hinted at by advance booking numbers. While far fewer travelers came during the week, both weekends bookending the holiday saw large increases in travel numbers, suggesting those who did travel stayed for longer and spurned the tradition of short weekend trips.

Saturday, Nov. 21 saw a 16.5 per cent increase in automobile travel compared to 2019, and Sunday, Nov. 22 saw a 30.8 per cent increase. Sunday, Nov. 29 also saw a 10 per cent increase in automobile travel.

In contrast with the weekend, travel during the week saw steep declines, with Wednesday, Friday and Saturday all reporting more than 22 per cent decreases in travel numbers. The only week day that saw an increase was Thursday, suggesting that if people did take day trips, they decided to do so on the day of the holiday.

The Thanksgiving week automobile data bucks travel trends from previous holidays since the pandemic hit in early March, when Memorial Day, Fourth of July and Labor Day all saw dramatic decreases in overall passenger and vehicle travel compared to 2019 numbers. Automobile traffic has since rebounded to pre-pandemic levels after crashing in April.

But passenger traffic continued to see steep declines throughout the last week of November, with 28.2 per cent, or 17,000 fewer passengers traveling to and from the Island during the week.

After reporting nearly 85 per cent passenger traffic declines at the onset of the pandemic in late March and early April, passenger travel has reached about 85 per cent of its normal volume throughout the fall. With the SSA closing its end-of-year books soon and planning for 2021, officials have said they expect automobile traffic to remain at pre-pandemic levels and for passenger traffic to be about 90 per cent of those numbers.

Meanwhile, Governor Baker has continued to caution against holiday travel, urging residents to participate in virtual celebrations with those outside their household as Christmas fast approaches.

“Holidays are going to look and feel different this year,” the governor said at a press briefing last month.