AAA Projects More Than 54 Million Americans Will Travel This Thanksgiving

Traffic over the Bay Bridge in San Francisco

PHOTO: Traffic over the Bay Bridge in San Francisco. (photo via MasaoTaira/iStock/Getty Images Plus)

More than 54 million Americans are expected to travel this Thanksgiving, according to AAA’s latest projection.

North America’s largest motoring and leisure travel organization estimates that approximately 54.3 million people will venture at least 50 miles or more from home for the holiday weekend, a 4.8 percent increase over last year and the most since 2005.

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Defined as Wednesday, November 21 to Sunday, November 25, the Thanksgiving holiday period will see the vast majority of travelers—48.5 million—take to the road, a nearly 5 percent jump from 2017 despite the highest gas prices in four years.

Nonetheless, the largest growth in holiday travel is by air, with 4.27 million passengers representing a 5.4 percent increase over last year. Meanwhile, travel via trains, buses and cruise ships is expected to increase by 1.4 percent to 1.48 million Thanksgiving passengers.

“Consumers have a lot to be thankful for this holiday season: higher wages, more disposable income and rising levels of household wealth,” said Bill Sutherland, AAA Travel senior vice president, in a statement. “This is translating into more travelers kicking off the holiday season with a Thanksgiving getaway, building on a positive year for the travel industry.”

Road trippers are encouraged to plan ahead and leave themselves plenty of extra time this holiday as global mobility analytics company INRIX predicts travel times in America’s most congested cities—including San Francisco, New York City and Boston—could be up to four times longer than a normal trip.

“Thanksgiving is one of the busiest holidays for road trips and this year will be no different,” said Trevor Reed, INRIX transportation analyst, in a statement. “Knowing when and where congestion will build can help drivers avoid the stress of sitting in traffic. Our advice to drivers is to avoid commuting times in major cities altogether or plan alternative routes.”

In general, experts recommend drivers travel on Thanksgiving Day, Friday or Saturday to avoid major delays.
While the national average gas price of $2.79 is up 31 cents from a year ago car rental costs are down about 10 percent to an average daily rate of $63, based on AAA’s Leisure Travel Index.

The Thanksgiving travel headaches won’t be limited to road trippers though. Air travelers can also anticipate long security lines and delays getting to the airport. In some cases, getting to the nation’s busiest airports could take an extra 90 minutes. Average ticket prices and airport crowds are projected to be at their highest and heaviest the Tuesday and Wednesday ahead of Thanksgiving.

According to AAA’s online and travel agency air and tour bookings, Orlando is the top Thanksgiving destination for 2018, followed by New York City; Anaheim, California; Punta Cana, Dominican Republic; Las Vegas; Cancun, Mexico; Dallas/Fort Worth; Honolulu; Washington, D.C. and Miami.

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