Americans to Set New Records for Driving and Flying This Thanksgiving

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Traveling to spend the Thanksgiving holiday with family is probably as much a tradition as the turkey feast itself. This year, according to an estimate from AAA, 55.3 million Americans will travel at least 50 miles to spend the holiday with friends and family.

By far the largest number will travel over the nation’s roads and highways. AAA estimates 49.3 million Americans will drive this year, up 2.8% compared with last year and the highest volume since 2005.

Another 4.45 million travelers will take to the skies, a 4.6% year-over-year increase, and 1.49 million are forecast to take a holiday trip by train, bus or cruise ship.

Paula Twidale, vice president of AAA Travel, commented, “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.” It’s an important time of the year that requires some prep work — here are 30 tips for planning your Thanksgiving right now.

In addition to the normal travel time to drive over the hills and through the woods to grandma’s house, the 49 million or so Americans also face long delays in getting started. Transportation analytics firm Inrix predicts delays of 3.5 times normal travel time to get out of Atlanta, Los Angeles and New York City during the evening rush hour on Wednesday, November 27. Travel times will rise by 3.4 times in Boston and Houston and 3.2 times in San Francisco.

Gasoline prices are forecast to be right around last year’s level at this time of year, with a national average of around $2.57 for a gallon of regular gas. Some areas, like the West Coast, are likely to see prices around 40 cents a gallon higher, while other areas, particularly in the southeast, could see prices as much as 40 cents a gallon lower, based on AAA’s Thursday national average of $2.61.

For air travelers, AAA noted that flying on Monday, November 25 is both a lighter travel day and offers the lowest average ticket price ($486), except for Thanksgiving Day itself, when the average price drops to $454.

Car rentals are expected to reach a 20-year high this year at $75 a day, according to AAA. Rooms at AAA Two Diamond-rated hotels are up 1% to $125 per night this year, while the per-night cost at Three Diamond-rated hotels has slipped an average of 5% to $158.

Travelers aiming for a warm-weather location are headed to Orlando and Anaheim (home to Disney resorts), Las Vegas and Honolulu. New York, the third-most-popular destination, has other attractions on offer for travelers. While locations may vary, the one thing that rarely changes about Thanksgiving is having a feast. A typical holiday dinner amounts to about 3,000 — that’s a lot of stress on the body. Know what the biggest health mistakes people make on Thanksgiving so you can avoid them.