ORLANDO, Fla.—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. Global transportation analytics company INRIX expects the afternoon of Wednesday, Nov. 27, to be the worst travel period nationally, with trips taking as much as four times longer than normal in major metro areas.
“Millions of thankful Americans are starting the holiday season off right with a Thanksgiving getaway,” said Paula Twidale, vice president of AAA Travel, in a press release. “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 Americans will be driving this year as well, with a 2.8% jump over those who hit the road last Thanksgiving. For the 49.3 million Americans traveling by automobile, INRIX and AAA predict major delays throughout the week, peaking Wednesday. “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, in a press release. “Although travel times will peak on Wednesday afternoon nationally, travelers should expect much heavier than normal congestion throughout the week.”
Gasoline prices have been fluctuating as of late but are currently cheaper than the national average at this time last year, giving Americans a little extra money to spend on travel and motivating millions to take road trips. For the majority of Americans, AAA expects gas prices to be fairly similar to last year’s Thanksgiving holiday, which averaged $2.57 a gallon.