WASHINGTON, D.C. — AAA predicts this year to be the third busiest for Thanksgiving since the organization began tracking the holiday travel, defined as Wednesday, Nov. 23 to Sunday, Nov. 27, in 2000.
"Families and friends are eager to spend time together this Thanksgiving, one of the busiest for travel in the past two decades," said AAA Senior Vice President of Travel Paula Twidale. "Plan ahead and pack your patience, whether you're driving or flying."
Approximately 54.6 million people will travel 50 miles or more from home this Thanksgiving — a 1.5 percent increase over 2021 and a 98 percent increase over pre-pandemic volumes.
Like last year, most travelers will drive to their destinations. Nearly 49 million motorists are expected to hit the road. However, while Thanksgiving road trips ticked up slightly from 0.4 percent in 2021, car travel remains 2.5 percent below 2019 levels.
Time to Travel
INRIX expects severe congestion in several U.S. metro areas, with some drivers experiencing more than double normal delays. Highways in and around Atlanta, Chicago, New York and Los Angeles will be the busiest.
To avoid the most hectic times, INRIX recommends traveling early in the morning on Wednesday or before 11 a.m. on Thanksgiving Day, and avoiding travel between 4 p.m.–8 p.m. Friday, Saturday and Sunday.
"Thanksgiving is one of the busiest holidays for road trips, and this year will be no different," said Bob Pishue, transportation analyst for 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."
Other Modes of Thanksgiving Transportation
Air travel is up nearly 8 percent since last year, with 4.5 million Americans flying to their Thanksgiving destinations this year. That's an increase of more than 330,000 travelers and nearly 99 percent of the 2019 volume.
Additionally, more than 1.4 million travelers are going out of town for Thanksgiving by bus, train or cruise ship — an increase of 23 percent from 2021 and 96 percent 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," Twidale said. "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."
According to AAA, 2005 and 2019 have been the busiest years for Thanksgiving travel, respectively, since it started tracking in 2000.