More than 55 million travelers are making plans to kick off the holiday season with a trip of 50 miles or more away from home this Thanksgiving. This will be the second-highest Thanksgiving travel volume since AAA began tracking in 2000, trailing only the record set in 2005. Overall, an additional 1.6 million more people will travel compared with last year, a 2.9% increase. The vast majority of holiday travelers will drive to their destinations and, INRIX, a global transportation analytics company, expects Wednesday afternoon to be the worst travel period nationally, with trips taking as much at four times longer than normal in major metros.
“Millions of thankful Americans are starting the holiday season off right with a Thanksgiving getaway,” said Paula Twidale, vice president, AAA Travel. “Strong economic fundamentals are motivating Americans to venture out this holiday in near-record numbers. Consumer spending remains strong, thanks to increasing wages, disposable income and household wealth, and travel remains one of their top priorities for the holiday season.”
By the numbers
- Automobiles: 49.3 million travelers will hit the road this Thanksgiving, the most since 2005 and 2.8% more than last year.
- Planes: With 4.6% growth, air travel will see the biggest increase in travel volume during the Thanksgiving holiday, with 4.45 million Americans expected to fly.
- Trains, Buses and Cruise Ships: Travel by other modes will reach 1.49 million, a slight increase of 1.4% from 2018.
Gas prices have been fluctuating as of late and are currently slightly higher than the national average for Thanksgiving last year. For the majority of Americans, AAA expects gas prices to be fairly similar to last year’s Thanksgiving holiday, which averaged $2.57.
Meanwhile, more than 368,000 motorists will call AAA for assistance at the roadside this Thanksgiving holiday. Dead batteries, flat tires and lockouts will be the leading reasons AAA members will experience car trouble. AAA recommends motorists take their vehicles to a trusted repair facility to perform any needed maintenance before heading out on a road trip. And remember to slow down and move over for stopped emergency vehicles at the roadside.
A recent analysis of AAA’s flight booking data from the last three years revealed that flying the Monday before the Thanksgiving travel rush is the best option for travelers. It has the lowest average ticket price ($486) prior to the holiday and is a lighter travel day than later in the week. Travelers can also save by traveling on Thanksgiving Day, which has the week’s lowest average price per ticket ($454).
Mixed Travel Costs
Holiday road trippers should budget more for a rental car this year, which have reached their highest prices on record for the Thanksgiving holiday (since 1999), at $75 per day. Travelers will also pay a bit more at AAA Two Diamond hotels, where prices are 1% more than last year, or $125 per night. Conversely, the average rate for AAA Three Diamond hotels has fallen 5% to an average nightly cost of $158.
Warm Weather Beckons
The theme parks of Orlando and southern California, and other warm-weather destinations will see an influx of travelers looking to escape the start of winter. Florida is home to four of the top 10 destinations, and Hawaii twice graces the list of top destinations in the U.S. this Thanksgiving, based on advance AAA Travel bookings:
- Orlando, Florida
- Anaheim, California
- New York, New York
- Las Vegas, Nevada
- Honolulu, Hawaii
- Ft. Lauderdale, Florida
- Tampa, Florida
- Kahului, Maui, Hawaii
- Phoenix, Arizona
- Miami, Florida
For those travelers planning an international vacation for Thanksgiving, sandy beaches are their destinations of choice. Nassau, Bahamas; Cancun, Mexico; Punta Cana, Dominican Republic; and Montego Bay, Jamaica are AAA’s top international destinations this Thanksgiving, with Munich, Germany rounding out the top five.
AAA’s travel experts remind travelers that it’s not too late to begin planning a Thanksgiving getaway. Visit AAA.com/Travel for travel planning resources to book your trip today.
AAA’s projections are based on economic forecasting and research by IHS Markit, a London-based business information provider. For the purposes of this forecast, the Thanksgiving holiday travel period is defined as the five-day period from Wednesday, Nov. 26 to Sunday, Dec. 1.
In cooperation with AAA, IHS Markit developed a unique methodology to forecast actual domestic travel volumes, using macroeconomic drivers such as employment; output; household net worth; asset prices including stock indices; interest rates; housing market indicators and variables related to travel and tourism, including prices of gasoline, airline travel and hotel stays.
AAA provides more than 60 million members with automotive, travel, insurance and financial services through its federation of 34 motor clubs and more than 1,000 branch offices across North America. Since 1902, the not-for-profit, fully tax-paying AAA has been a leader and advocate for safe mobility. Drivers can request roadside assistance, identify nearby gas prices, locate discounts, book a hotel or map a route via the AAA Mobile app. To join, visit AAA.com.
INRIX is the global leader in connected car services and transportation analytics. Leveraging big data and the cloud, INRIX delivers comprehensive services and solutions to help move people, cities and businesses forward. Our partners are automakers, governments, mobile operators, developers, advertisers, as well as enterprises large and small.