– AAA projects that 48.7 million Americans will journey 50 miles or more from home this Thanksgiving, an increase of one million travelers compared with last year. This represents a 1.9 percent increase over 2015, and the most Thanksgiving travelers since 2007.
Why the Increase?
This year’s increase in Thanksgiving travel is spurred by improvements in the economy during the second half of the year, including rising wages, increased consumer spending and overall strength in consumer confidence. Despite incremental increases in the national average price of gasoline during the past couple months, AAA estimates U.S. drivers have saved more than $28 billion so far at the pumps this year compared to the same period last year.
“This is the most traveled holiday of the year, and as usual, there is an emphasis on road trips,” said Joseph J. Richardson Jr., President and CEO of AAA – The Auto Club Group. “If you are one of the 43.5 million people on the road, we urge you to be patient in traffic and limit distractions while behind the wheel.”
The Thanksgiving holiday travel period is defined as Wednesday, Nov. 23, through Sunday, Nov. 27 – the same duration as last year. The most popular travel dates are the Wednesday before the holiday and the Sunday after.
Driving remains most popular mode of travel for Thanksgiving
The vast majority—more than 89 percent—of holiday travelers will drive this Thanksgiving. The 43.5 million Americans planning a Thanksgiving road trip represents an increase of 1.9 percent over last year. Air travel is expected to increase 1.6 percent, with 3.69 million Americans flying to their holiday destinations. Travel by other modes of transportation, including cruises, trains and buses, will increase only slightly this Thanksgiving, to 1.44 million travelers.
Thanksgiving gas prices second-cheapest in nearly a decade
The national average price for a gallon of gasoline is $2.17, 12 cents more than the average price on Thanksgiving Day 2015 ($2.05). If prices dip below last year’s levels, regular unleaded will be the cheapest since 2008, when the national average was $1.85. In Wisconsin, the current average price of $2.03 is almost a quarter less than this time last year ($2.27). Average pump prices in Minnesota are generally cheaper than in Wisconsin, while those traveling south to Illinois will see higher prices along their route.
“Gas prices are now on a similar course as last year, due in large part to lower oil prices,” said Nick Jarmusz, Wisconsin director of public affairs for AAA – The Auto Club Group. “On this day last year, pump prices began a streak of declines that continued through the end of the month. Whether that happens again will depend on which direction oil prices go from here.”
Thanksgiving airfares, hotel rates and car rental prices mixed
According to AAA’s Leisure Travel Index, airfares are projected to increase 21 percent this Thanksgiving, landing at an average of $205 for a roundtrip flight for the top 40 domestic routes. Rates for AAA Three Diamond Rated lodgings are expected to remain flat, with travelers spending an average of $155 per night. The average rate for a AAA Two Diamond Rated hotel has risen four percent with an average nightly cost of $123. Daily car rental rates will average $52, 13 percent lower than last Thanksgiving.
Many travelers will journey west this Thanksgiving
This year’s top destinations for Thanksgiving include many popular west coast cities, as well as perennial family-friendly favorites. The most popular destinations this Thanksgiving, based on AAA.com bookings, are:
- Las Vegas, Nevada
- San Francisco, California
- San Diego, California
- Orlando, Florida
- New York City, New York
- New Orleans, Louisiana
- Anaheim, California
- Fort Lauderdale, Florida
- Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
- Seattle, Washington
AAA will rescue thousands of motorists this Thanksgiving
AAA expects to rescue more than 370,000 motorists this Thanksgiving, with the primary reasons being dead batteries, flat tires and lockouts. AAA recommends that motorists check the condition of their battery and tires and pack emergency kits in their vehicles before heading out on a holiday getaway. Drivers should have their vehicles inspected by a trusted repair shop, such as one of the nearly 7,000 AAA Approved Auto Repair facilities across North America. Members can download the AAA Mobile app, visit AAA.com or call 1-800-AAA-HELP to request roadside assistance.
Download the AAA Mobile app before a Thanksgiving getaway
Before setting out on a Thanksgiving trip, travelers should download the free AAA Mobile app for iPhone, iPad and Android. The app can help map a route, find lowest gas prices, access exclusive member discounts, make travel arrangements, request AAA roadside assistance, find AAA Approved Auto Repair facilities and more. Learn more at AAA.com/mobile.
With the AAA Mobile app, travelers can also find more than 58,000 AAA Approved and Diamond Rated hotels and restaurants. AAA’s is the only rating system that uses full-time, professionally trained evaluators to inspect each property on an annual basis. Every AAA Approved establishment offers the assurance of acceptable cleanliness, comfort and hospitality, and ratings of One to Five Diamonds help travelers find the right match for amenities and services.
About the travel forecast:
AAA’s projections are based on economic forecasting and research by IHS Markit. The London-based business 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 2016 Thanksgiving holiday travel forecast can be found here.
About The Auto Club Group
The Auto Club Group (ACG) is the second largest AAA club in North America. ACG and its affiliates provide membership, travel, insurance and financial services offerings to over 9 million members across eleven states and two U.S. territories including Florida, Georgia, Iowa, Michigan, Nebraska, North Dakota, Tennessee, Wisconsin, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands; most of Illinois and Minnesota; and a portion of Indiana. ACG belongs to the national AAA federation with more than 56 million members in the United States and Canada and whose mission includes protecting and advancing freedom of mobility and improving traffic safety.