An estimated 55.4 million travelers will head 50 miles or more from home over the Thanksgiving holiday travel period, an increase of 2.3 percent over last year and the third-highest Thanksgiving forecast since AAA began tracking holiday travel in 2000, according to its Thanksgiving Travel Forecast.
The top two Thanksgiving holiday travel periods were 2005 and 2019.
“For many Americans, Thanksgiving and travel go hand in hand, and this holiday, we expect more people on the roads, skies and seas compared to 2022,” said Paula Twidale, senior vice president of AAA Travel. “Travel demand has been strong all year, and AAA’s Thanksgiving forecast reflects that continued desire to get away and spend time with loved ones.”
Most Thanksgiving travelers will drive to their destination, said AAA.
A estimated 49.1 million Americans will drive, an increase of 1.7 percent compared to 2022.
As far as holiday air travel, AAA expects 4.7 million people will fly over Thanksgiving, an increase of 6.6 percent compared to 2022 and the highest number of Thanksgiving air travelers since 2005.
Tuesday and Wednesday before Thanksgiving are the busiest air travel days ahead of the holiday and the most expensive. While Sunday is typically the busiest day to return home, AAA data shows Monday is also a popular day to fly back after Thanksgiving.
The number of people traveling by cruise, bus and train over Thanksgiving is up nearly 11 percent over last year, AAA found. An expected 1.55 million travelers will head out of town using these other modes of transportation.
“The cruise industry, in particular, has made a remarkable comeback,” Twidale added. “Thanksgiving cruises are mostly sold out, with many travelers looking to spend the holiday at sea.”
INRIX, a provider of transportation data and insights, expects Wednesday, Nov. 22, to be the busiest day on the roads during the Thanksgiving holiday travel period, with average travel times as high as 80 percent over normal in some metro areas.
“The day before Thanksgiving is notoriously one of the most congested days on our roadways. Travelers should be prepared for long delays, especially in and around major metros,” said Bob Pishue, transportation analyst at INRIX. “Knowing when and where congestion will build can help minimize holiday traffic frustrations. We advise drivers to use traffic apps, local DOT notifications, and 511 services for real-time updates.”