Thanksgiving Travel Numbers Continues to Rise

COLUMBUS, Ohio (Nov. 15, 2022) – AAA predicts 54.6 million Americans (more than 2.2 million Ohioans) will travel at least 50 miles from home this Thanksgiving (Nov. 23-27). That’s a 1.5% increase over 2021 (1.1% in Ohio) and 98% of pre-pandemic volumes (96% in Ohio).

Continued higher costs of living and gas prices, coupled with concerns about inflation, are slowing travel volumes from exceeding pre-pandemic levels. Yet, this year’s national travel projections are more than 10% higher than the 10-year average of 2012-2021 and the third highest on record (4th highest in Ohio).

“Families and friends are eager to spend time together this Thanksgiving, one of the busiest for travel in the past two decades,” says Paula Twidale, AAA’s senior vice president of Travel. “Plan ahead and pack your patience, whether you’re driving or flying.” 

Holiday Road Trips Remain Dominant:

About 89% of Americans (87% of Ohioans) will drive to their destination this Thanksgiving. The nearly 49 million Americans (more than 1.9 million Ohioans) that are planning holiday road trips is slightly more (0.4%) than last year. In Ohio, slightly (0.3%) fewer people will drive this Thanksgiving, as some travelers shift back to air travel and other modes of transportation.

During the pandemic, people were more comfortable with traveling by car, resulting in a shift in share of trips. As conditions continue to improve, the share of travel by car is starting to move back toward pre-pandemic levels.

INRIX, in collaboration with AAA, warns motorists to expect congestion during peak travel times. The busiest times to travel by car include:

  • Wednesday, Nov. 23: 11 a.m. – 8 p.m.
  • Thursday, Nov. 24: 11 a.m. – 3 p.m.
  • Friday, Nov. 25: 4-8 p.m.
  • Saturday, Nov. 26: 4-8 p.m.
  • Sunday, Nov. 27: 4-8 p.m.

“Thanksgiving is one of the busiest holidays for road trips, and this year will be no different,” says Bob Pishue, transportation analyst, 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.”

Ensuring vehicles are road-trip-ready can also help alleviate stress associated with a vehicle breakdown. AAA expects to respond to more than 400,000 calls for emergency roadside assistance over the Thanksgiving holiday weekend. Before hitting the road, drivers should get a vehicle inspection to check key components like the battery, fuel system, tires, brakes and fluid levels.

Record Number of Ohioans Will Fly This  Holiday:

Airports will be busy this Thanksgiving with a record 216,000 Ohioans planning to fly. That’s up 9.1% from last Thanksgiving and exceeds pre-pandemic levels by nearly 15,000 travelers.

Nationally, more than 4.5 million Americans will fly. That’s up 8% from 2021 and nearly 99% of the 2019 volume. The national air travel projections are also 22% higher than the 10-year pre-pandemic average.

“Airport parking spaces fill up fast, so reserve a spot ahead of time and arrive early,” Twidale suggests. “Anticipate long TSA lines. If possible, avoid checking a bag to allow for more flexibility if flights are delayed or you need to reschedule.”

Other Modes of Transportation Growing:

Travelers are also turning to other modes of transportation this holiday. More than 1.4 million Americans (more than 60,000 Ohioans) are going out of town for Thanksgiving by bus, train, or cruise ship. That’s an increase of 23% from 2021 both nationally and in Ohio.

“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 adds. “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.”

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