AAA Expects 55 Million Americans To Travel This Thanksgiving

AAA predicts 54.6 million people will travel 50 miles or more from home this Thanksgiving. That’s a 1.5% increase over 2021, representing 98% of pre-pandemic volumes. This year is projected to be the third busiest for Thanksgiving travel since AAA started tracking in 2000*.

Massachusetts travelers will account for more than 1.3 million of the 54.6 million, up 2.4 percent from a year ago.

“Families and friends are eager to spend time together this Thanksgiving, one of the busiest for travel in the past two decades,” says Mary Maguire, Vice President of Public and Government Affairs at AAA Northeast. “Plan ahead and pack your patience, whether you’re driving or flying.”

Most travelers will drive to their destinations, much like last year. Nearly 49 million people are expected to travel by car. While Thanksgiving road trips have risen slightly – up 0.4% from 2021 – car travel remains 2.5% below 2019 levels. Just over 1.2 million from Massachusetts will travel by car, up slightly from last year.

Travelers on Massachusetts roads should expect the most traffic on Wednesday, Nov. 23, especially along the I-93, I-95, I-90 and Route 3 metro corridors. The particular hotspots are:

  • On Interstate 93 southbound, traffic volumes are expected to be 76 percent higher than a normal non-holiday weekday between exit 20 (I-90 junction) and exit 4 (Route 24 junction)
  • On Interstate 93 northbound, the traffic volume is expected to be 53 percent higher between exit 17 (Government Center) and exit 25 (Route 28 junction).
  • On Interstate 95 southbound, traffic volume is expected to be 30 percent higher between exit 36 (Route 9) and exit 21 (Coney Street)
  • Interstate 90 westbound, traffic volume is expected to be 26 percent higher between exit 131 (Brighton, Cambridge) to exit 95 (Route 122 Junction)
  • Route 3 northbound, traffic volume is expected to be 19 percent higher between exit 36 (Derby St.) and exit 20 (I-93).

Air travel is up nearly 8% over 2021, with 4.5 million Americans flying to their Thanksgiving destinations this year. That’s an increase of more than 330,000 travelers and nearly 99% of the 2019 volume. “Airport parking spaces fill up fast, so reserve a spot ahead of time and arrive early,” Ms. Maguire suggests. “Anticipate long TSA lines. If possible, avoid checking a bag to allow for more flexibility if flights are delayed or you need to reschedule.”

Americans are also ramping up travel by other modes of transportation. More than 1.4 million travelers are going out of town for Thanksgiving by bus, train, or cruise ship. That’s an increase of 23% from 2021 and 96% of the 2019 volume. “With travel restrictions lifted and more people comfortable taking public transportation again, it’s no surprise buses, trains, and cruises are coming back in a big way,” Ms. Maguire adds. “Regardless of the mode of transportation you have chosen, expect crowds during your trip and at your destination. If your schedule is flexible, consider off-peak travel times during the holiday rush.”

*2005 and 2019 have been the busiest years for Thanksgiving travel, respectively, since AAA started tracking in 2000. 

Thanksgiving Holiday Travel Period

For purposes of this forecast, the Thanksgiving holiday travel period is defined as the five-day period from Wednesday, November 23 to Sunday, November 27. The Wednesday to Sunday period is consistent with previous years.

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