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 (Nov. 27) to be the worst travel period nationally, with trips taking as much at four times longer than normal in major metros.

“Millions of thankful Americans are starting the holiday season off right with a Thanksgiving getaway,” said Paula Twidale, vice president of AAA Travel. “Strong economic fundamentals are motivating Americans to venture out this holiday in near-record numbers. Consumer spending remains strong, thanks to increasing wages, disposable income and household wealth, and travel remains one of their top priorities for the holiday season.”

By the numbers

• Automobiles – 49.3 million travelers will hit the road this Thanksgiving, the most since 2005 and 2.8 percent more than last year.

• Planes – With 4.6 percent growth, air travel will see the biggest increase in travel volume during the Thanksgiving holiday, with 4.45 million Americans expected to fly. Travel by other modes will reach 1.49 million, a slight increase of 1.4 percent from 2018.

On the road

Gas prices have been fluctuating as of late and are currently slightly lower than the national average for Thanksgiving last year. For the majority of Americans, AAA expects gas prices to be fairly similar to last year’s Thanksgiving holiday, which averaged $2.57.

Meanwhile, more than 368,000 motorists will call AAA for assistance at the roadside this Thanksgiving holiday. Dead batteries, flat tires and lockouts will be the leading reasons AAA members will experience car trouble. 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. 

Travelers can save by traveling Thanksgiving Day, which has the week’s lowest average price per ticket.

Holiday road trippers should budget more for a rental car this year, which has reached the highest prices on record for the Thanksgiving holiday (since 1999), at $75 per day.

AAA’s projections are based on economic forecasting and research by IHS Markit, a London-based business information provider. For the purposes of this forecast, the Thanksgiving holiday travel period is defined as the five-day period from Nov. 26 to Dec. 1.

In cooperation with AAA, IHS Markit developed a unique methodology to forecast actual domestic travel volumes, using macroeconomic drivers such as employment, output, household net worth, asset prices including stock indices, interest rates, housing market indicators and variables related to travel and tourism, including prices of gasoline, airline travel and hotel stays.

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