AAA Estimates More to Travel for Thanksgiving Holiday

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If you’re planning to visit friends or family over Thanksgiving – you will be among a LOT of travelers – regardless of whether you go by planes, trains or automobiles. AAA Mid-Atlantic expects over 55-million people will travel 50 miles or more over the Thanksgiving holiday period – an increase of 2.3% from last year – with Tuesday and Wednesday of this week the heaviest travel days. If you’re driving – so are an estimated 49-million others – so be sure to give yourself plenty of time, drive during off-peak hours and pack your patience.

Additional information from AAA Mid-Atlantic:

Most Thanksgiving travelers will drive to their destinations. AAA projects 49.1 million Americans will get behind the wheel, an increase of 1.7% compared to 2022. Drivers could be paying less for gas than last Thanksgiving when the national average was $3.58. This year, the national average peaked in mid-August at $3.87 and has been coming down since, despite global tensions causing ripples through the oil market.

AAA expects 4.7 million people will fly over Thanksgiving, an increase of 6.6% compared to 2022 and the highest number of Thanksgiving air travelers since 2005. Tuesday and Wednesday before Thanksgiving are the busiest air travel days ahead of the holiday and the most expensive. While Sunday is typically the busiest day to return home, AAA data shows Monday is also a popular day to fly back after Thanksgiving.

The number of people traveling by cruise, bus, and train over Thanksgiving is up nearly 11% over last year. AAA expects 1.55 million travelers will head out of town using these other modes of transportation, which took a huge hit during the pandemic but have rebounded nicely. “The cruise industry, in particular, has made a remarkable comeback,” Twidale added. “Thanksgiving cruises are mostly sold out, with many travelers looking to spend the holiday at sea.”

Best/Worst Times to Drive and Peak Congestion by Metro

INRIX, a provider of transportation data and insights, expects Wednesday, November 22, to be the busiest day on the roads during the Thanksgiving holiday travel period, with average travel times as high as 80% over normal in some metro areas. INRIX recommends leaving in the morning or after 6 p.m. to avoid the heaviest holiday congestion.

“The day before Thanksgiving is notoriously one of the most congested days on our roadways. Travelers should be prepared for long delays, especially in and around major metros,” said Bob Pishue, transportation analyst at INRIX. “Knowing when and where congestion will build can help minimize holiday traffic frustrations. We advise drivers to use traffic apps, local DOT notifications, and 511 services for real-time updates.”

Please note – the times listed below are for the time zone the metro is located in. For example, Atlanta routes = ET and Los Angeles routes = PT.

Thanksgiving Holiday Travel Period 

For the purposes of this forecast, the Thanksgiving holiday travel period is defined as the five-day period from Wednesday, November 22 to Sunday, November 26.


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