Here’s Where Consumers Are Traveling This Thanksgiving

Americans are making their way back to urban destinations over rural ones.

November 09, 2022

ALEXANDRIA, Va.—AAA has revealed the top 10 domestic travel destinations for the Thanksgiving holiday. Two theme-park destinations top the list this year—Orlando and Anaheim—as they did in 2019 and 2021, while Chicago and Charlotte are two new additions to the top 10.

“Thanksgiving is all about spending time with family and friends, so it’s no surprise that theme park destinations top the list, with entertainment and meals accessible within a resort,” said Paula Twidale, AAA senior vice president of travel. “Chicago and Charlotte join Atlanta as hub cities for the three largest airlines—American, Delta and United—and will see lots of activity this holiday season, as airline routes and direct flights are limited, and staff shortage still exists.”

Average hotel booking costs are up 8% compared to 2021, but hotel prices in some cities like Las Vegas and Denver are lower this year. “Since travel restrictions have lifted, we are seeing more of a shift from rural destinations back to urban cities, like New York,” Twidale added. “Consumer confidence has improved, and travelers want the excitement and accessibility of big cities, as well as more hotel options and greater inventory, which can sometimes mean better pricing.”

The top 10 destinations are:

  1. Orlando
  2. Anaheim
  3. Las Vegas
  4. New York City
  5. Atlanta
  6. Phoenix
  7. Dallas/Fort Worth
  8. Denver
  9. Chicago
  10. Charlotte 

According to IRI, big Thanksgiving celebrations are back this year, with 76% of consumers reporting they plan to celebrate the holiday like they did before the COVID-19 pandemic. The average number of people at the Thanksgiving table will be close to eight, and that number jumps to 9.8 for Gen Z and younger millennials (those under 32). The oldest consumers, seniors and retirees anticipate six people at their tables.

While people are hosting larger meals, inflation is a top concern for consumers, and 38% expect to pay more for groceries this year but intend to buy the same amount of food. IRI reports that traditional Thanksgiving meal items are estimated to cost 13.5% more than they did a year ago.

In response to high inflation, retailers are discounting holiday meal items, including Pilot Flying J.

Overall, food and beverage costs were up 13.3% year over year in October. Additionally, this year could become the worst year ever of avian flu outbreaks for poultry, skyrocketing turkey prices. Wholesale turkey prices are at $1.79 a pound in October, which is 40 cents higher than last year’s peak. (Walmart is keeping whole turkeys at $1 a pound.) IRI research shows pies and side dishes are up 19.6% and 18.8%, respectively.