Nearly 51 million Americans to travel this Thanksgiving, marking highest volume in 12 years

Drivers will pay more for gas, hit more traffic
Posted at 5:55 AM, Nov 16, 2017
and last updated 2017-11-21 10:41:51-05

CINCINNATI -- AAA projects 50.9 million Americans will journey 50 miles or more away from home this Thanksgiving, a 3.3 percent increase over last year.

AAA anticipates we'll see the highest Thanksgiving travel volume since 2005 with 1.6 million more people taking to the nation’s roads, skies, rails and waterways compared with last year. AAA and INRIX, a global transportation analytics company, predict travel times in the most congested cities in the U.S. during the holiday week could be as much as three times longer than the optimal trip.

“Thanksgiving kicks off the start of a busy holiday season, and more thankful Americans will travel to spend time with friends and family this year,” said AAA Public Affair Manager, Cindy Antrican. “A strong economy and labor market are generating rising incomes and higher consumer confidence, fueling a strong year for the travel industry, which will continue into the holiday season.”

AAA's Jenifer Moore came onto Good Morning Tri-State to discuss travel predictions for this Thanksgiving. Watch in the video player below.


The Thanksgiving holiday travel period is defined as Wednesday, Nov. 22 to Sunday, Nov. 26.

By the Numbers: 2017 Thanksgiving Travel Forecast

  • Road trip ready: 89 percent of all travelers – 45.5 million – are planning a Thanksgiving road trip, an increase of 3.2 percent over last year.
  • Cheaper airfare: Consumers will pay the cheapest average airfare since 2013.
  • Fuller skies: The largest growth in holiday travel is by air travel, at five percent, with 3.95 million travelers.
  • Fueling up: Drivers will pay the highest Thanksgiving gas prices since 2014.
  • Holiday high: Car rental daily rates will hit a five-year holiday high at $70/day, which may be due to an increase in domestic demand and cost of newer vehicles.

Travelers still hitting the road despite higher gas prices

While AAA expects most U.S. drivers will pay the highest Thanksgiving gas prices since 2014, the vast majority of holiday travelers (89.3 percent) are still planning to hit the road. Automobile travel will grow by 3.2 percent this Thanksgiving, with 45.5 million Americans planning a holiday road trip. This November’s national average price is $2.54, which is 37 cents more than last November (1st-14th).

Travelers Beware and Advised: Traffic Hotspots and Best and Worst Times to Hit the Road

More travelers on the road may equal more traffic in destination cities and motorists should be prepared.  Based on historical and recent travel trends for the holiday week, INRIX, in collaboration with AAA, predicts drivers will experience the greatest amount of congestion during the early evening – as early as Tuesday of Thanksgiving week - as commuters mix with holiday travelers. At its peak, drivers on Chicago’s interstates, for example, could see a delay of nearly 300 percent over the optimal trip.

Waze suggests avoiding travel from 3 to 5 p.m. Tuesday, 2 to 4 p.m. Wednesday and 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Thursday to skip out on the worst traffic headaches. 

“Thanksgiving has historically been one of the busiest holidays for road trips, and this year we could see record-level travel delays,” said Bob Pishue, transportation analyst at INRIX. “Knowing when and where congestion will build can help drivers avoid the stress of sitting in traffic.”

Lockouts, flat tires will likely strand 330,000 motorists this Thanksgiving

AAA expects to rescue more than 330,000 motorists this Thanksgiving weekend, with the primary reasons being lockouts, flat tires and battery-related issues. AAA recommends motorists have their vehicles inspected by a trusted repair shop.

AAA Tips for Road Travelers:

  1. Get A Preventative Maintenance Check: Go to a trusted mechanic and have your vehicle battery, tires and fluids checked prior to hitting the road. AAA offers free preventative maintenance checks at all AAA Bob Sumerel Tire and Auto locations. You do not have to be a member.
  2. Map Your Route: Travel projections in high areas can mean more time on the road and possibly in traffic.
  3. Fill Up: Temperatures may be colder in destination cities. Keep your gas tank at least half full to avoid gas line freeze-up. It is also important to have enough gas if you are stuck in traffic.
  4. Have an Emergency Kit: Pack an emergency kit containing a snow shovel, flashlight, ice scraper, jumper cables, warning devices, fully charged cell phone, non-perishable snacks, bottled water and extra warm clothing for everyone riding in the vehicle.
  5. Safety First: Every passenger in the vehicle should be wearing a seatbelt or properly restrained in a car or booster seat, including pets. Never drive if you are feeling drowsy and be alert for impaired drivers.