Good Economy, Consumer Confidence Drive 55 Million Americans’ Thanksgiving Travel Plans

Drew Angerer/Getty Images
Drew Angerer/Getty Images

This Thanksgiving will see some 55 million Americans traveling more than 50 miles over the holiday weekend, a 2.9 percent increase from last year and the second highest number of holiday travelers since AAA Travel started tracking in 2000, with the largest number recorded in 2005.

AAA Travel also reported on data from INRIX, a global transportation analytics company, which said the worst time to travel by car is Wednesday afternoon, with trips taking as much as four times longer than normal.

Paula Twidale, vice president of AAA Travel, said in a press release about holiday travel:

Millions of thankful Americans are starting the holiday season off right with a Thanksgiving getaway. 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.

Here’s AAA Travel’s Thanksgiving travel by the numbers: 

  • Automobiles: 49.3 million travelers will hit the road this Thanksgiving, the most since 2005 and 2.8% more than last year.
  • Planes: With 4.6% growth, air travel will see the biggest increase in travel volume during the Thanksgiving holiday, with 4.45 million Americans expected to fly.
  • Trains, Buses and Cruise Ships: Travel by other modes will reach 1.49 million, a slight increase of 1.4% from 2018.

AAA also reported on lower gas prices and the number of people who will require roadside assistance while traveling:

Gas prices have been fluctuating as of late, but are currently cheaper than the national average at this time last year, giving Americans a little extra money to spend on travel and motivating millions to take road trips. 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 reported that the most popular places as winter sets in are getaways to warm places, including California, Florida, Arizona and Hawaii.

New York City is also a popular Thanksgiving destination.

“AAA’s projections are based on economic forecasting and research by IHS Markit, a London-based business information provider,” AAA reported on its forecast methodology. “For the purposes of this forecast, the Thanksgiving holiday travel period is defined as the five-day period from Wednesday, Nov. 27 to Sunday, Dec. 1.”

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