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AAA: More Than 54 Million Americans To Travel This Thanksgiving, The Most Since 2005

AAA projects 54.3 million Americans will journey 50 miles or more away from home this Thanksgiving, a 4.8% increase over last year. The 2018 holiday weekend will see the highest Thanksgiving travel volume since 2005, with 2.5 million more people taking to the nation’s roads, skies, rails and waterways compared with last year. For the 48.5 million Americans planning a Thanksgiving road trip, INRIX, a global mobility analytics company, predicts travel times in the most congested cities in the U.S. could be as much as four times longer than a normal trip. The Thanksgiving holiday period is defined as Wednesday, November 21st to Sunday, November 25th. The 2018 Thanksgiving Holiday Travel Forecast

  • Automobiles: The vast majority of travelers – 48.5 million – will hit the road this Thanksgiving, nearly 5% more than last year.
  • Planes: The largest growth in holiday travel is by air, at 5.4%, with 4.27 million travelers.
  • Trains, Buses, and Cruise Ships: Travel across these sectors will increase by 1.4%, with a total of 1.48 million passengers.

Based on historical and recent travel trends, INRIX predicts drivers will experience the greatest amount of congestion Thanksgiving week during the early evening commute period, with travel times starting to increase on Monday. Drivers in San Francisco, New York City and Boston will see the largest delays – nearly quadruple normal drive times.

Worst Times to Hit the Road in America’s Largest Cities
Metro Area Worst Day for Travel Worst Time for Travel Worst Hotspot Delay Multiplier
Houston Monday 2:00 – 4:00 PM TX-8 Beltway E, TX249 to I69 2.75
Boston Tuesday 4:00 – 6:00 PM I-495 S, exit 41 to 33 3.5x
Seattle Tuesday 4:00 – 6:00 PM I-5 S, exit 178 to 149 2x
Atlanta Tuesday 5:00 – 7:00 PM I-75 N, exit 216 to 227 2.75x
Washington, D.C. Tuesday 5:00 – 7:00 PM Capital Beltway Clockwise 2.5x
Detroit Tuesday 5:30 – 7:30 PM US-23 N, exit 35 to 49 2.5x
New York Tuesday 6:00 – 8:00 PM I-95 W, exit 7 to Hamilton Bridge 3.5x
San Francisco Wednesday 1:00 – 3:00 PM I-680 N, exit 8 to 21 4x
Chicago Wednesday 2:30 – 4:30 PM I-94 W, exit 40A to 1 2x
Los Angeles Wednesday 2:30 – 4:30 PM I-5 S, exit 79 to 54B 2x

Across the country, travelers who take to the sky must account for long security lines but also increased drive times to the airport. INRIX expects delays getting to the nation’s busiest airports could be as long as an hour and a half.

Worst Travel Times to America’s Busiest Airports
Metro Area Airport Route Worst Time for Travel Travel Time at Peak
Dallas Downtown to DFW via TX-183 W Monday, 5:00-7:00 pm 30 min
San Francisco Downtown to SFO via US-101 S Monday, 5:00-7:00 pm 24 min
Denver Downtown to DIA via I-70 E and Pena Blvd Monday, 5:30-7:30 pm 55 min
New York Downtown to JFK via Long Island Expressway East Tuesday, 5:30-7:30 pm 1 hr 19 min
Los Angeles Downtown to LAX via I-110 S Tuesday, 7:00-9:00 pm 58 min
Atlanta Downtown to ALT via I-75 S Tuesday, 7:00-9:00 pm 34 min
Charlotte Downtown to CLT via US-74 W Tuesday, 8:00-10:00 pm 21 min
Las Vegas Downtown to LAS via I-15 S Wednesday, 8:00-9:00 am 27 min
Chicago Downtown to ORD via Kennedy Expressway West Wednesday, 1:30-3:30 pm 1 hr 37 min
Seattle Downtown to SEA via I-5 S Wednesday, 8:00-10:00 pm 41 min

Motorists can expect to pay the highest Thanksgiving gas prices in four years, with a national average of $2.79 as of November 1, 31-cents more than a year ago.

Best Times to Fly and Book Thanksgiving Flights
Day 3-Year Average Ticket Price Expected Crowds
Monday (November 19, 2018) $465 Moderate
Tuesday (November 20, 2018) $509 Heavy
Wednesday (November 21, 2018) $507 Heavy
Thursday (November 22, 2018) $446 Light

Travelers can expect to save on car rentals this Thanksgiving holiday season. At $63, the average daily rate is 10% less than last year, according to AAA’s Leisure Travel Index. Travelers can also save on AAA Three Diamond hotels, with an average nightly rate of $166, a decline of 6% compared to last year. Conversely, the average rate for AAA Two Diamond hotels has increased by 6% with an average nightly cost of $124.

Top 10 Thanksgiving Destinations

Many travelers will seek iconic American cities, theme parks and other warm-weather destinations this Thanksgiving. Orlando, New York City and Anaheim top this year’s top 10 holiday destinations based on AAA’s online and travel agency air and tour bookings. Punta Cana, Dallas/Fort Worth and Miami are all gaining popularity as holiday spots compared with last year.

  1. Orlando, Florida
  2. New York, New York
  3. Anaheim, California
  4. Punta Cana, Dominican Republic
  5. Las Vegas, Nevada
  6. Cancun, Mexico
  7. Dallas/Fort Worth, Texas
  8. Honolulu, Hawaii
  9. Washington, DC
  10. Miami, Florida

AAA expects to rescue nearly 360,000 motorists at the roadside this Thanksgiving. Dead batteries, lockouts, and flat tires will be the leading reasons AAA members will experience car trouble.

Read more here.