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Thursday, May 23, 2024

A historic number of Americans will be traveling this Thanksgiving season

(Southside Daily File Photo/courtesy of AAA)
(WYDaily File Photo/courtesy of AAA)

AAA is projecting that 54.3 million Americans will journey 50 miles or more away from home this Thanksgiving, a 4.8 percent increase over last year.

The 2018 holiday weekend will see the highest Thanksgiving travel volume in more than a dozen years (since 2005), with 2.5 million more people taking to the nation’s roads, skies, rails and waterways compared with last year.

“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. “This is translating into more travelers kicking off the holiday season with a Thanksgiving getaway, building on a positive year for the travel industry.”

The Thanksgiving holiday period is defined as Wednesday, Nov. 21 to Sunday, Nov. 25.

By the Numbers: 2018 Thanksgiving holiday travel forecast

This year AAA predicts that the vast majority of the travelers will be traveling by automobile, a whopping 48.5 million which is nearly 5 percent more than last year.

Traveling by plane has increased by 5.4 percent this year, making it the largest growth in holiday travel, with 4.27 million travelers.

Lastly we have trains, buses and cruise ships, with travelers increasing by 1.4 percent and totaling to 1.48 million passengers.

Thanksgiving’s terrible traffic

Based on historical travel trends, INRIX, in collaboration with AAA, predicts drivers will experience the greatest amount of congestion Thanksgiving week during the early evening commute period, with travel times starting to increase Monday.

“Thanksgiving is one of the busiest holidays for road trips, and this year will be no different,” said Trevor Reed, transportation analyst at INRIX. “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 most cases, the best days to travel will be on Thanksgiving Day, Friday or Saturday. Drivers should expect increased travel times on Sunday as most holiday travelers will be making their way home after the long weekend.

There will be nearly 1.5 million Virginians traveling this Thanksgiving according to AAA, so if you’re staying within the state this holiday season be sure to check out this interactive map that VDOT has put together to monitor travel-trends:

VDOT's travel-trends map can help you find the most efficient route. (Southside Daily Photo/courtesy of VDOT)
VDOT’s travel-trends map can help you find the most efficient route. (WYDaily Photo/courtesy of VDOT)

Fueling up and flying out

Drivers will pay the highest gas prices over the Thanksgiving holiday in four years, according to AAA.

As of Nov. 15 gas prices were sitting at $2.43/gallon in Virginia.

Airlines for America (A4A) also reports that they are projecting a record 30.6 million passengers that will travel on U.S. airlines during the 12-day Thanksgiving travel period.

This is an increase from last year’s estimated 29 million passengers during the 2017 travel period.

To see their full forecast, click here.

To help cope with that increase, airlines are adding 158,000 more seats in the marketplace each day, with a total of 2.94 million seats available to flyers every day, according to A4A.

The Transport Security Administration is also doing its part in keeping up with the busy travel season.

TSA officials are prepared to process the volume of passengers at airport security checkpoints, deploying new technology, an additional 80 passenger screening canine teams and more than 1,200 TSA officers.

To see their preparation plans, click here.

John Mangalonzo
John Mangalonzo
John Mangalonzo ( is the managing editor of Local Voice Media’s Virginia papers – WYDaily (Williamsburg), Southside Daily (Virginia Beach) and HNNDaily (Hampton-Newport News). Before coming to Local Voice, John was the senior content editor of The Bellingham Herald, a McClatchy newspaper in Washington state. Previously, he served as city editor/content strategist for USA Today Network newsrooms in St. George and Cedar City, Utah. John started his professional journalism career shortly after graduating from Lyceum of The Philippines University in 1990. As a rookie reporter for a national newspaper in Manila that year, John was assigned to cover four of the most dangerous cities in Metro Manila. Later that year, John was transferred to cover the Philippine National Police and Armed Forces of the Philippines. He spent the latter part of 1990 to early 1992 embedded with troopers in the southern Philippines as they fought with communist rebels and Muslim extremists. His U.S. journalism career includes reporting and editing stints for newspapers and other media outlets in New York City, California, Texas, Iowa, Utah, Colorado and Washington state.

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