VIRGINIA BEACH — AAA predicts 54.6 million people will travel 50 miles or more from home this Thanksgiving, a 1.5% increase over 2021 and 98% of pre-pandemic volumes.
According to AAA, this year is projected to be the third busiest for Thanksgiving travel since it started tracking in 2000.
“Families and friends are eager to spend time together this Thanksgiving, one of the busiest for travel in the past two decades,” says Holly Dalby, AAA Tidewater director of public affairs. “Plan ahead and pack your patience, whether you’re driving or flying.”
Most travelers will drive to their destinations, AAA said, with nearly 49 million people expected to travel by car. Despite this uptick in Thanksgiving road trips — up 0.4% from 2021 — car travel remains 2.5% below 2019 levels.
Air travel is up nearly 8% over 2021, with 4.5 million Americans flying to their Thanksgiving destinations this year, AAA said, an increase of more than 330,000 travelers and nearly 99% of the 2019 volume.
“Airport parking spaces fill up fast, so reserve a spot ahead of time and arrive early,” Dalby suggests. “Anticipate long TSA lines. If possible, avoid checking a bag to allow for more flexibility if flights are delayed or you need to reschedule.”
Other modes of transportation are seeing increases, as well. More than 1.4 million travelers are going out of town for Thanksgiving by bus, train, or cruise ship, AAA said, an increase of 23% from 2021 and 96% of the 2019 volume.
“With travel restrictions lifted and more people comfortable taking public transportation again, it’s no surprise buses, trains, and cruises are coming back in a big way,” Dalby adds. “Regardless of the mode of transportation you have chosen, expect crowds during your trip and at your destination. If your schedule is flexible, consider off-peak travel times during the holiday rush.”
Average hotel booking costs are up 8% compared to 2021, AAA noted, but hotel prices in some cities — including Las Vegas and Denver — are lower this year.
“Since travel restrictions have lifted, we are seeing more of a shift from rural destinations back to urban cities, like New York,” Dalby says. “Consumer confidence has improved, and travelers want the excitement and accessibility of big cities, as well as more hotel options and greater inventory, which can sometimes mean better pricing.”
INRIX, a transportation analytics company, expects severe congestion in several U.S. metro areas, with some drivers likely to experience more than double normal delays. It recommends traveling early in the morning on Wednesday, or before 11 a.m. on Thanksgiving Day and avoiding travel between 4-8 p.m. Friday, Saturday, and Sunday.
“Thanksgiving is one of the busiest holidays for road trips, and this year will be no different,” says Bob Pishue, Transportation Analyst, INRIX. “Although travel times will peak on Wednesday afternoon nationally, travelers should expect much heavier than normal congestion throughout the holiday weekend. Knowing when and where congestion will build can help drivers avoid the stress of sitting in traffic.”