There are more Americans expected to travel more than 50 miles from home to celebrate Thanksgiving this year than at any time since 2005 and up 3.3% compared with the 2016 holiday. AAA and transportation analytics company INRIX estimate that 50.9 million travelers will take to U.S. skies, highways and railways during the five-day holiday period between Wednesday and Sunday.
By far the majority will travel by automobile: 45.5 million (89%), compared with about 3.95 million who are expected fly and another 1.48 million who will travel by bus or train. Gasoline prices, although currently about 37 cents a gallon more costly than last year, remain reasonable at around $2.54 per gallon a week before the peak holiday travel period.
Travelers with tickets to fly are paying the lowest average round-trip fare in five years on the top 40 domestic routes: $157, down 23% year over year.
AAA senior vice president Bill Sutherland noted:
Thanksgiving kicks off the start of a busy holiday season, and more thankful Americans will travel to spend time with friends and family this year. A strong economy and labor market are generating rising incomes and higher consumer confidence, fueling a strong year for the travel industry, which will continue into the holiday season.
Rental car rates for the holiday week are expected to hit a five-year high of $70 a day, and room rates at AAA Three Diamond Rated hotels are up 14% to $176 a night. Rates at Two Diamond Rated hotels have fallen by 5%, however, to $117 a night.
Holiday traffic will be heavy and this could lead to long delays in reaching your destination. In Chicago, for example, the worst day to travel is Tuesday, and the worst time to travel is between 5 and 6 p.m. If you hit that traffic, expect a total travel time that is three times longer than normal.
We’ve already looked at the 25 busiest airports for the Thanksgiving holiday. AAA has prepared an estimate of travel times to reach 10 of those airports and the worst time to make the trip from the city center. Here’s the list:
- New York (JFK): 1 hour 54 minutes; Tuesday 5:30 to 7:30 p.m.
- Chicago (ORD): 1 hour 14 minutes; Tuesday 4:30 to 5:30 p.m.
- Denver (DIA): 52 minutes; Wednesday 4:30 to 6:30 p.m.
- Los Angeles (LAX): 46 minutes; Tuesday 4:30 to 6:30 p.m.
- Dallas (DFW): 46 minutes; Wednesday 8:00 to 9:00 a.m.
- Las Vegas (LAS): 45 minutes; Wednesday 8:00 to 9:00 a.m.
- San Francisco (SFO): 29 minutes; Tuesday 5:00 to 7:00 p.m.
- Seattle (SEA): 29 minutes; Tuesday 3:00 to 5:00 p.m.
- Charlotte (CLT): 19 minutes; Wednesday 1:00 to 3:00 p.m.
- Atlanta (ATL): 12 minutes; Wednesday 5:00 to 7:00 p.m.
This year’s top destinations are:
- Orlando, Florida
- Anaheim, California
- New York City
- Punta Cana, Dominican Republic
- San Francisco
- Kahului, Maui
- Fort Lauderdale