Highest Thanksgiving Day Travel Predicted in 12 Years

AAA projects that 45.5 million Americans (89% of travelers) are planning a road trip this Thanksgiving holiday weekend. Photo via Wikimedia/Minesweeper
AAA projects that 45.5 million Americans (89% of travelers) are planning a road trip this Thanksgiving holiday weekend. Photo via Wikimedia/Minesweeper

For the upcoming Thanksgiving holiday weekend, AAA Travel projects that 50.9 million Americans will travel 50 miles or more away from home, an increase of 1.6 million travelers compared with last year.

This represents a 3.3% increase over 2016 and the most Thanksgiving travelers since 2005. The Thanksgiving holiday travel period is defined as Wednesday Nov. 22 to Sunday Nov. 26.

AAA and INRIX, a global transportation analytics company, predict travel times in the most congested cities in the U.S. could be as much as three times longer than the optimal trip.

"Thanksgiving kicks off the start of a busy holiday season, and more thankful Americans will travel to spend time with friends and family this year," said Bill Sutherland, AAA senior vice president, travel and publishing. "A strong economy and labor market are generating rising incomes and higher consumer confidence, fueling a strong year for the travel industry, which will continue into the holiday season."

This year, 89% of all travelers (45.5 million) are planning a Thanksgiving road trip, an increase of 3.2% over last year, according to AAA. Car rental rates will hit a five-year holiday high at $70 per day. This could be due to an increase in domestic demand and cost of newer vehicles. For airfare, Americans will pay the cheapest airfare since 2013 for a round-trip flight for the top 40 domestic routes, says AAA.

When it comes to gas prices, most U.S. drivers will pay the highest Thanksgiving gas prices since 2014. The national average price for November is $2.54, 37 cents more than last November (1st-14th).

Based on historical and recent travel trends, INRIX predicts drivers will experience the worst congestion during the early evening — as early as Tuesday of Thanksgiving week — as commuters mix with holiday travelers.

"Thanksgiving has historically been one of the busiest holidays for road trips, and this year we could see record-level travel delays," said Bob Pishue, transportation analyst at INRIX. "Knowing when and where congestion will build can help drivers avoid the stress of sitting in traffic."

The worst traffic hotspot in each of the 10 most congested U.S. cities:

City Traffic Hotspot
Los Angeles, CA I-5 S at Valley View Ave
New York, NY I-495 E at NY-106/NY-107
San Francisco, CA I-80 E at Pinole Valley Rd
Atlanta, GA I-75 N at Chastain Rd
Miami, FL I-95 N at Congress Ave
Washington, DC I-95 S at US-17/US-1
Dallas, TX US-75 S at I-45/I-3
Boston, MA I-90 W at I-84/US-20
Chicago, IL I-90 W at I-190
Seattle, WA I-405 S at WA-167

Based on AAA.com bookings, this year’s top 10 destinations for Thanksgiving include: Orlando; Anaheim, Calif.; New York City; Honolulu; Las Vegas; Punta Cana, Dominican Republic; Cancun, Mexico; San Francisco; Kahului, Maui; and Fort Lauderdale.

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