The best and worst times to travel for Thanksgiving

By Chaffin Mitchell, AccuWeather staff writer
November 20, 2018, 9:22:54 PM EST


The 2018 holiday weekend will see the highest Thanksgiving travel volume in more than a dozen years.

“Consumers have a lot to be thankful for this holiday season: higher wages, more disposable income and rising levels of household wealth,” said Bill Sutherland, AAA Travel senior vice president. “This is translating into more travelers kicking off the holiday season with a Thanksgiving getaway, building on a positive year for the travel industry.”

AAA projects 54.3 million Americans will journey 50 miles or more away from home this Thanksgiving; that's 2.5 million more people than last year.

Holiday Travel

Travelers wait to board a train ahead of the Thanksgiving holiday at the 30th Street Station in Philadelphia, Wednesday, Nov. 22, 2017. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)


"The majority of travelers – 48.5 million – will hit the road this Thanksgiving, nearly 5 percent more than last year," said Julie Hall, AAA National Office public relations manager.

According to INRIX, which is a global company that provides internet services and mobile applications pertaining to road traffic and driver services, the busiest days on the roads will vary by city, with traffic starting as early as Monday afternoon in Houston, for example. Drivers should also expect increased travel times on the Sunday after Thanksgiving as most holiday travelers will be making their way home after the long weekend.

"For the nearly 4.3 million people who will be traveling by plane, an analysis of AAA’s flight booking data from the last three years revealed that the Tuesday and Wednesday prior to Thanksgiving are usually the most popular air travel days and have the highest average price per roundtrip ticket. Meanwhile, Thanksgiving Day consistently has the lowest average price per ticket and is the lightest travel day," Hall said.

Static Wednesday US Travel


INRIX predicts drivers will experience the greatest amount of congestion Thanksgiving week during the early evenings as holiday travelers mix with commuters. In most cases, the best days to travel will be on Thanksgiving Day, Friday or Saturday.

"The roads will be less crowded at night, but travelers should be aware of the dangers of driving drowsy," Hall said.

AAA recommends driving when you would normally be awake, get plenty of rest before setting out on a road trip and schedule breaks every two hours or 100 miles to remain alert.

Worst times to travel for Thanksgiving


"AAA expects to rescue nearly 360,000 motorists at the roadside this Thanksgiving, with dead batteries, lockouts and flat tires the leading reasons for car trouble," Hall said.

AAA recommends motorists take their vehicle to a trusted repair facility to perform any needed maintenance before heading out, as they may face icy road conditions.

"Oil changes, fluid level checks, battery tests and tire inspections go a long way toward reducing the chances of a breakdown. For those who may be driving in cold weather this Thanksgiving, check weather reports regularly and delay trips when especially bad weather is expected," Hall said.

Once motorists hit the road, they can expect to pay the highest Thanksgiving gas prices in four years, with a national average of $2.79 as of Nov. 1, which is 31 cents more than a year ago.

“Motorists have become accustomed to this year’s more expensive gas prices and won’t let higher fuel costs deter them from taking Thanksgiving road trips,” said AAA gas price expert Jeanette Casselano.

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An analysis of AAA’s flight booking data from the last three years revealed that the Tuesday and Wednesday prior to Thanksgiving are usually the most popular air travel days and have the highest average price per roundtrip ticket. Meanwhile, Thanksgiving Day consistently has the lowest average price per ticket and is the lightest travel day.

Travelers looking to save money this holiday season can fly the morning of the holiday and arrive just in time for Thanksgiving dinner.


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