AAA predicts 51 million travelers this Thanksgiving, the highest volume since 2005

VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. – With Thanksgiving nearing and people traveling across the country, AAA predicts that there will be up to 51 million travelers this coming week.

AAA says that its prediction will mean that this is the highest volume of travelers since 2005 at Thanksgiving time, and that these travelers will be driving 50 miles or more for the holiday.

This a 3.3 percent increase from last year’s projections, which will bring 1.6 million more people on to the nation’s roads, skies, rails and waterways.

“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,” said Judy Ocasio, Vice President of Travel and Branch Ops for AAA Tidewater Virginia.

AAA and INRIX, a global transportation analytics company, predict travel times in the most congested cities in the U.S. during the holiday week could be as much as three times longer than the optimal trip.

The increase comes at a time when gas prices are up more then 40 percent from last year. Americans on average are paying $2.56 at the pump, and Virginians have seen an average increase of 30 cents across the state from last 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,” added Ocasio, even though gas prices may be more this holiday season.

The Thanksgiving holiday travel period is defined as November 22-26, according to AAA.

The company also added that according to AAA’s Leisure Travel Index, travelers taking to the skies will pay the lowest average in five years for a round-trip flight for the top 40 domestic routes. At $157, on average, that is a 23 percent fare drop year-over-year.

By the numbers: AAA Thanksgiving Travel Forecast:

  • Road trip ready: 89 percent of all travelers – 45.5 million – are planning a Thanksgiving road trip, an increase of 3.2 percent over last year.
  • Cheaper airfare: Consumers will pay the cheapest average airfare since 2013.
  • Fuller skies: The largest growth in holiday travel is by air travel, at five percent, with 3.95 million travelers.
  • Alternate travel: Travel by trains and other modes (including buses and cruises) is expected to increase 1.1 percent to 1.48 million travelers.
  • Fueling up: Drivers will pay the highest Thanksgiving gas prices since 2014.
  • Holiday high: Car rental daily rates will hit a five-year holiday high at $70/day, which may be due to an increase in domestic demand and cost of newer vehicles.