December 2, 2022

These Are the Busiest Days and Times to Travel for Thanksgiving, According to AAA

Best times to hit the road or fly during the holiday. Paul Hennessy/Getty Images Travelers…

These Are the Busiest Days and Times to Travel for Thanksgiving, According to AAA

Best times to hit the road or fly during the holiday.

Paul Hennessy/Getty Images

Travelers wait for a long queue while carrying their bags and luggage at the security checkpoint at Orlando International Airport on Thanksgiving Eve last year.

More than 54 million people are expected to travel over the Thanksgiving holiday period, nearly matching pre-pandemic levels.

In total, 54.6 million people are forecast to travel 50 miles or more from their homes for the holiday from Wednesday, Nov. 23, to Sunday, Nov. 27, according to AAA. The holiday is projected to be the third busiest for travel since the company started tracking in 2000 and the prediction will bring travel within 98% of pre-pandemic levels.

This year is also expected to be a 1.5% increase from 2021.

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

Most travelers who head out for the Thanksgiving holiday will hit the road, with nearly 49 million people planning to drive. But that is 2.5% lower than in 2019.

Americans who are traveling by car should travel early on Wednesday morning or before 11 a.m. on Thanksgiving Day to skip the crowds, and avoid travel between 4 p.m. and 8 p.m. on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday.

AAA also laid out best and worst times to travel in metro cities around the country. For example, peak congestion through New York will occur from 2:45 p.m. to 4:45 p.m. while peak time in Atlanta will occur from 1:30 p.m. to 3:30 p.m.

But there is good news: gas prices have decreased ahead of the holiday with the national average for a gallon sliding three cents in the past week to $3.77, AAA also noted. That is 13 cents less than a month ago, but still 36 cents more than one year ago.

When it comes to air travel, fewer Americans are expected to fly — about 4.5 million of them — but they represent nearly 99% of the 2019 volume. The increase comes as holiday flight prices are expected to reach the highest they’ve been in five years.

Department of Transportation Sec. Pete Buttigieg has said holiday air travel will likely be an improvement from the chaos of the summer, but warned it still won’t be perfect.

Twidale said travelers should “anticipate long TSA lines. If possible, avoid checking a bag to allow for more flexibility if flights are delayed or you need to reschedule.”

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