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 percent 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 trips taking as much at four times longer than normal in major metros.
“The strong economy is giving many Americans the confidence to head out and visit their families and friends this Thanksgiving,” says Jim Lehman, president of AAA East Central.
The Thanksgiving holiday period is defined as Wednesday, Nov. 27 to Sunday, Dec. 1.
For the 49.3 million Americans traveling by automobile, AAA predicts major delays throughout the week, peaking Wednesday with trips taking as much four times longer as commuters mix with travelers.
Lower gas prices
Gas prices have been fluctuating recently but are currently trending a dime cheaper than the national average at this time last year. This is 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.
AAA to rescue
More than 368,000 motorists will call AAA nationwide for assistance at the roadside this Thanksgiving holiday, with dead batteries, flat tires and lockouts as the leading calls.
AAA recommends motorists take their vehicles to a trusted repair facility to perform any needed maintenance before heading out on a road trip. And remember to slow down and move over for stopped emergency vehicles at the roadside.
A recent analysis of AAA’s national 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).
Cars and hotels
Holiday road trippers should budget more for a rental car this year, which have reached their highest prices on record for the Thanksgiving holiday (since 1999) at $75 per day. Travelers will also pay a bit more at AAA Two Diamond hotels, where prices are 1% more than last year, or $125 per night.
Conversely, the average rate for AAA Three Diamond hotels has fallen 5% to an average nightly cost of $158.
AAA East Central is a not-for-profit association with 78 local offices in Kentucky, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania and West Virginia serving 2.7 million members.