Approximately 54.3 million Americans will journey 50 miles or more away from home this Thanksgiving, a 4.8 percent increase over last year according to projections from AAA.

The 2018 holiday weekend will see the highest Thanksgiving travel volume in more than a dozen years (since 2005), with 2.5 million more people taking to the nation’s roads, skies, rails and waterways compared with last year.

For the 48.5 million Americans planning a Thanksgiving road trip, INRIX, a global mobility analytics company, predicts that travel times in the most congested cities in the U.S. could be as much as four times longer than normal travel.

“Consumers have much to be thankful for this holiday season, including higher wages, more disposable in-come and rising levels of household wealth,” said Nick Jarmusz, director of public affairs for AAA – The Auto Club Group. “As a result, more travelers are kicking off the holiday season with a Thanksgiving getaway.” 

The Thanksgiving holiday period is defined as Nov. 21-25.

Based on historical and recent travel trends, INRIX, in collaboration with AAA, predicts drivers will experience the greatest amount of congestion Thanksgiving week during the early evening commute period, with travel times starting to increase Monday.

“Thanksgiving is one of the busiest holidays for road trips, and this year will be no different,” said Trevor Reed, transportation analyst at INRIX. “Knowing when and where congestion will build can help drivers avoid the stress of sitting in traffic. Our advice to drivers is to avoid commuting times in major cities altogether or plan alternative routes.”

In most cases, the best days to travel will be Thanksgiving Day, Friday or Saturday. Drivers should expect increased travel times Sunday, as most holiday travelers will be making their way home after a long weekend. Across the country, travelers who take to the sky must account for long security lines, but also increased drive times to the airport.

INRIX expects delays getting to the nation’s busiest airports could be as long as an hour and a half. 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 round trip ticket.

Meanwhile, Thanksgiving Day consistently has the lowest average price per ticket and is the lightest travel day.

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

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