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 some 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 Mary Maguire, Director of Public and Legislative Affairs at AAA Northeast. “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.”
More than 1.26 million Massachusetts residents will be among the travelers, with almost 1.1 million going by car, both records for this holiday.
By the numbers: 2019 Thanksgiving travel forecast
- Automobiles: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.
Nothing worse than Wednesday: Times NOT to be on the road
For the 49.3 million Americans traveling by automobile, INRIX, in collaboration with AAA, predicts major delays throughout the week, peaking Wednesday with trips taking as much four times longer as commuters mix with travelers.
“With record levels of travelers, and persistent population growth in the country’s major metropolitan areas, drivers must prepare for major delays,” said Trevor Reed, transportation analyst at INRIX. “Although travel times will peak on Wednesday afternoon nationally, travelers should expect much heavier than normal congestion throughout the week.”
|Metro Area||Worst Time Wednesday, Nov. 27||Delay Multiplier|
|Los Angeles||5:00-7:00 PM||3.5x|
|New York||5:15-7:15 PM||3.5x|
|San Francisco||2:00-4:00 PM||3.2x|
|Washington DC||3:00-5:00 PM||2.8x|
Travel tip for the friendly skies: Fly Monday before Thanksgiving
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).
Warm weather beckons this Thanksgiving
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
- 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.