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Highest Travel for Thanksgiving 48.5 Million Travelers

AAA projects 54.3 million Americans will journey 50 miles or more away from home this Thanksgiving, a 4.8 percent increase over last year. The 2018 holiday weekend will see the highest Thanksgiving travel volume in more than a dozen years (since 2005), with 2.5 million more people taking to the nation’s roads, skies, rails and waterways compared with last year. For the 48.5 million Americans planning a Thanksgiving road trip, INRIX, a global mobility analytics company, predicts travel times in the most congested cities in the U.S. could be as much as four times longer than a normal trip.

“Consumers have a lot to be thankful for this holiday season: higher wages, more disposable income and rising levels of household wealth,” said Bill Sutherland, AAA Travel senior vice president. “This is translating into more travelers kicking off the holiday season with a Thanksgiving getaway, building on a positive year for the travel industry.”

The Thanksgiving holiday period is defined as Wednesday, November 21 to Sunday, November 25. The  good news is At $2.76, the national gas price average is at its cheapest in six months (end of April). On the week, motorists in every state but Hawaii are paying as much as a nickel less to fill-up.

By the Numbers: 2018 Thanksgiving Holiday Travel Forecast

  • Automobiles: The vast majority of travelers – 48.5 million – will hit the road this Thanksgiving, nearly 5 percent more than last year.
  • Planes: The largest growth in holiday travel is by air, at 5.4 percent, with 4.27 million travelers.
  • Trains, Buses and Cruise Ships: Travel across these sectors will increase by 1.4 percent, with a total 1.48 million passengers.

Drivers Beware: Thanksgiving’s Terrible Traffic
Based on historical and recent travel trends, INRIX, in collaboration with AAA, predicts drivers will experience the greatest amount of congestion Thanksgiving week during the early evening commute period, with travel times starting to increase on Monday. Drivers in San Francisco, New York City and Boston will see the largest delays – nearly quadruple normal drive times.

“Thanksgiving is one of the busiest holidays for road trips, and this year will be no different,” says Trevor Reed, transportation analyst at INRIX. “Knowing when and where congestion will build can help drivers avoid the stress of sitting in traffic. Our advice to drivers is to avoid commuting times in major cities altogether or plan alternative routes.”

In most cases, the best days to travel will be on Thanksgiving Day, Friday or Saturday. Drivers should expect increased travel times on Sunday as most holiday travelers will be making their way home after the long weekend.

Worst Times to Hit the Road in America’s Largest Cities

Metro Area

Worst Day for Travel

Worst Time for Travel

Worst Hotspot

Delay Multiplier

Houston

Monday

2:00 – 4:00 PM

TX-8 Beltway E, TX249 to I69

2.75

Boston

Tuesday

4:00 – 6:00 PM

I-495 S, exit 41 to 33

3.5x

Seattle

Tuesday

4:00 – 6:00 PM

I-5 S, exit 178 to 149

2x

Atlanta

Tuesday

5:00 – 7:00 PM

I-75 N, exit 216 to 227

2.75x

Washington, D.C.

Tuesday

5:00 – 7:00 PM

Capital Beltway Clockwise

2.5x

Detroit

Tuesday

5:30 – 7:30 PM

US-23 N, exit 35 to 49

2.5x

New York

Tuesday

6:00 – 8:00 PM

I-95 W, exit 7 to Hamilton Bridge

3.5x

San Francisco

Wednesday

1:00 – 3:00 PM

I-680 N, exit 8 to 21

4x

Chicago

Wednesday

2:30 – 4:30 PM

I-94 W, exit 40A to 1

2x

Los Angeles

Wednesday

2:30 – 4:30 PM

I-5 S, exit 79 to 54B

2x

Source: INRIX

Across the country, travelers who take to the sky must account for long security lines, but also increased drive times to the airport. INRIX expects delays getting to the nation’s busiest airports could be as long as an hour and a half.

Worst Travel Times to America’s Busiest Airports

Metro Area

Airport Route

Worst Time

for Travel

Travel Time

at Peak

Dallas

Downtown to DFW via TX-183 W

Monday,
5:00 – 7:00 PM

30 min

San Francisco

Downtown to SFO via US-101 S

Monday,
5:00 – 7:00 PM

24 min

Denver

Downtown to DIA via I-70 E and Pena Blvd

Monday,
5:30 – 7:30 PM

55 min

New York

Downtown to JFK via Long Island Expressway East

Tuesday,
5:30 – 7:30 PM

1 hr 19 min

Los Angeles

Downtown to LAX via I-110 S

Tuesday,
7:00 – 9:00 PM

58 min

Atlanta

Downtown to ALT via I-75 S

Tuesday,
7:00 – 9:00 PM

34 min

Charlotte

Downtown to CLT via US-74 W

Tuesday,
8:00 – 10:00 PM

21 min

Las Vegas

Downtown to LAS via I-15 S

Wednesday,
8:00 – 9:00 AM

27 min

Chicago

Downtown to ORD via Kennedy Expressway West

Wednesday,
1:30 – 3:30 PM

1 hr 37 min

Seattle

Downtown to SEA via I-5 S

Wednesday,
8:00 – 10:00 PM

41 min

Source: INRIX