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AAA: More Than 54 Million Americans to Travel this Thanksgiving, the Most Since 2005



AAA projects 2.4 million New Englanders will travel 50 miles or more away from home this Thanksgiving, a 5% 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 115,000 more people taking to roads, skies, rails and waterways compared with last year. 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 Pat Moody, manager of public affairs for AAA Northern New England. “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.


New England Travel Forecast

  • Automobiles: Drivers in New England are forecasted to exceed the national average and see an increase of 5 percent from 1.99 million to 2.09 million
  • Planes: Holiday air travel is expected to increase 6.1 percent to 276,00 leisure travelers.
  • Trains, Buses, Rails and Cruise Ships: Travel across these sectors will see a slight decrease by .6 percent to 43,000 passengers.

National 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, a global mobility analytics company, 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.

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.

 “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



2:00 - 4:00 PM

TX-8 Beltway E, TX249 to I69




4:00 - 6:00 PM

I-495 S, exit 41 to 33




4:00 - 6:00 PM

I-5 S, exit 178 to 149




5:00 - 7:00 PM

I-75 N, exit 216 to 227


Washington, D.C.


5:00 - 7:00 PM

Capital Beltway Clockwise




5:30 - 7:30 PM

US-23 N, exit 35 to 49


New York


6:00 - 8:00 PM

I-95 W, exit 7 to Hamilton Bridge


San Francisco


1:00 - 3:00 PM

I-680 N, exit 8 to 21




2:30 - 4:30 PM

I-94 W, exit 40A to 1


Los Angeles


2:30 - 4:30 PM

I-5 S, exit 79 to 54B


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.

Gas Prices Not Keeping Holiday Travelers Home
Motorists can expect to pay the highest Thanksgiving gas prices in four years, with a national average of $2.65 as of November 15, 9 -cents more than a year ago.

  • Vermont’s average current price is $2.82 per gallon, which is 3 cent lower than one week ago, and 22 cents higher than one year ago.
  • New Hampshire’s average current price is $2.66 per gallon, which is 5 cents lower than one week ago and 14 cents higher than one year ago.
  • Maine’s average current price is $2.63 per gallon, which is 7 cents lower than one week ago, and 6 cents higher than one year ago.

“Motorists have become accustomed to this year’s more expensive gas prices  and won’t let higher fuel costs deter them from taking Thanksgiving road trips,” said Moody.

Best Times to Fly and Book Thanksgiving Flights

An analysis of AAA’s flight booking data from the last three years revealed that the Tuesday and Wednesday prior to Thanksgiving are usually the most popular air travel days and have the highest average price per roundtrip ticket. Meanwhile, Thanksgiving Day consistently has the lowest average price per ticket and is the lightest travel day. Travelers looking to save money this holiday season can fly the morning of the holiday and arrive just in time for Thanksgiving dinner.



3-Year Average Ticket Price

Expected Crowds

Monday (November 19, 2018)



Tuesday (November 20, 2018)



Wednesday (November 21, 2018)



Thursday (November 22, 2018)




Most travelers booked their flights for Thanksgiving between September 23 and October 25, paying an average ticket price of $478 roundtrip. Procrastinating travelers who still need to book their flights may find cheaper airfares, paying an average ticket price of $459 between now and November 15. However, last-minute flight availability will likely be very limited.

Car Rental Costs Fall, Hotel Prices Mixed

Travelers can expect to save on car rentals this Thanksgiving holiday season. At $63, the average daily rate is 10 percent less than last year, according to AAA’s Leisure Travel Index. Travelers can also save on AAA Three Diamond hotels, with an average nightly rate of $166, a decline of six percent compared to last year. Conversely, the average rate for AAA Two Diamond hotels has increased six percent with an average nightly cost of $124.

Top 10 Thanksgiving Destinations

Many travelers will seek iconic American cities, theme parks and other warm-weather destinations this Thanksgiving. Orlando, New York City and Anaheim top this year’s top 10 holiday destinations based on AAA’s online and travel agency air and tour bookings. Punta Cana, Dallas/Fort Worth and Miami are all gaining popularity as holiday spots compared with last year.

  1. Orlando, Florida
  2. New York, New York
  3. Anaheim, California
  4. Punta Cana, Dominican Republic
  5. Las Vegas, Nevada
  6. Cancun, Mexico
  7. Dallas/Fort Worth, Texas
  8. Honolulu, Hawaii
  9. Washington, DC
  10. Miami, Florida

AAA to Rescue Nearly 360,000 Motorists
AAA expects to rescue nearly 360,000 motorists at the roadside this Thanksgiving. Dead batteries, lockouts and flat tires will be the leading reasons AAA members will experience car trouble. AAA recommends motorists take their vehicle to a trusted repair facility to perform any needed maintenance before heading out. Oil changes, fluid level checks, battery tests and tire inspections go a long way toward reducing the chances of a breakdown.

Pat Moody, manager of public affairs interview B-Roll

Thanksgiving Travel Infographics 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7

As North America’s largest motoring and leisure travel organization, AAA provides more than 57 million members with travel, insurance, financial, and automotive-related services.  Operating 19 offices throughout Maine, New Hampshire and Vermont, AAA Northern New England is a not-for-profit, fully tax-paying corporation and serves as an advocate for the safety and security of all travelers.  AAA Northern New England can be visited on the Internet at    

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AAA Northern New England is a member club affiliated with the American Automobile Association (AAA) national federation and serves members in Maine, New Hampshire, and Vermont.