Thanksgiving Travel Numbers Expected to Hit Near Record Levels

Written by on November 14, 2019

COLUMBUS, Ohio (November 14, 2019) – For the fourth year in a row, AAA predicts the highest Thanksgiving travel numbers since 2005, with 55.3 million Americans, including nearly 2.3 million Ohioans, planning to travel at least 50 miles from home between Wednesday, Nov. 26 and Sunday, Dec. 1. This is a 2.9% increase over last year nationally and a 3% increase in Ohio.

Economy Boosts Travel

Travel volumes fell quickly during the recession, with national Thanksgiving travel numbers bottoming out at 37.8 million travelers in 2008 and Ohio travel numbers hitting a low of just under 1.5 million travelers in 2009. As the economy has recovered, so has holiday travel. This year’s Thanksgiving travel predictions are 46% above the recession low nationally, and 53% above the recession low in Ohio.

“Millions of thankful Americans are starting the holiday season off right with a Thanksgiving getaway,” said Paula Twidale, vice president, 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.”

Holiday Road Trips: Expect Crowded Roads & Breakdowns

About 89 percent of travelers will drive to their holiday destinations. With 1.4 million more Americans, including 56,000 more Ohioans, on the roads this year, travelers should expect crowded roads. The following advice can help keep holiday road trips running smooth.

.Avoid peak travel times: Wednesday afternoon will be the busiest time to travel, with trips expected to take as much as four times longer in major metro areas, according to INRIX, a global transportation analytics company, in collaboration with AAA. The Ohio Department of Transportation (ODOT) expects a 63% increase in traffic during the Thanksgiving holiday weekend. That makes it the busiest travel holiday period of the year on Ohio’s roads.

.Prepare vehicles for holiday travel: AAA expects to assist more than 368,000 motorists nationwide this Thanksgiving weekend, including nearly 14,000 in Ohio. The top reasons motorists will request roadside assistance include dead batteries, flat tires and lockouts.

.Slow Down and plan ahead: With the extra traffic, ODOT will suspend roadwork and open as many lanes as possible. However, drivers should pay extra attention while driving through work zones and allow additional time to reach their destination.

.Buckle up and drive sober: The Ohio State Highway Patrol is reminding motorists to buckle up, never drive impaired and always follow traffic laws. Last year during the Thanksgiving holiday weekend, there were seven fatal crashes that killed seven people on Ohio’s roadways. Two of those fatalities were the result of an impaired driver and three were unbuckled. Troopers will have an increased presence on Ohio’s roadways to promote a safe Thanksgiving holiday.

Air Travel

Airports will also be busy over the holiday weekend with 4.45 million Americans, including nearly 195,000 Ohioans, flying. This marks an increase of 4.6% nationally and 5.6% in Ohio over last year, and is the highest number of Thanksgiving air travelers since 2005 nationally and the highest number on record in Ohio.

Travelers who take to the sky should account for long security lines and increased drive times to the airport, especially during peak travel times. Travelers should plan to arrive at the airport at least two hours prior to their flight’s scheduled departure.

A recent analysis of AAA’s flight booking data from the last three years revealed that flying the Monday before Thanksgiving is the best option for travelers. It has the lowest average ticket price ($486) prior to the holiday and is a lighter travel day than later in the week. Travelers can also save by traveling on Thanksgiving Day, which has the week’s lowest average ticket price ($454).

Car Rental Costs Peak, Hotel Prices Mixed

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

Travelers will also pay slightly more for AAA Two Diamond hotels, where prices are 1% more than last year, or $125 per night. Conversely, the average rate for AAA Three Diamond hotels has fallen 5% to an average cost of $158 per night.

Holiday Forecast Methodology

AAA’s projections are based on economic forecasting and research by IHS Markit. The London-based information provider teamed with AAA in 2009 to jointly analyze travel trends during major holidays. AAA has been reporting on holiday travel trends for more than two decades. The complete AAA/IHS 2019 Thanksgiving Travel Forecast can be found on the AAA Newsroom.

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