Thanksgiving travel nears pre-pandemic levels

AAA expects nearly 55 million people to travel

R-H Staff

DAYTON — AAA predicts 54.6 million people will travel 50 miles or more from home this Thanksgiving. That’s a 1.5 percent increase over 2021 and 98 percent of pre-pandemic volumes. This year is projected to be the third busiest for Thanksgiving travel since AAA started tracking in 2000*. In Ohio, travelers will be out on the roads and in the air as 2.2 million Ohioans plans to travel over the holiday weekend. That’s an increase of 1.3 percent over last year.

In the Dayton metro area (Montgomery, Miami, Greene, Preble) nearly 20 percemt of people* will be traveling for the holiday. That is about 164,000. The majority of people will be driving — more than 144,391. *U.S. Census Bureau (v2021)/IHS Markit

“Families and friends are eager to spend time together this Thanksgiving, one of the busiest for travel in the past two decades,” says Paula Twidale, AAA’s Senior Vice President of Travel. “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 slightly risen – up 0.4 percent from 2021 – car travel remains 2.5 percent below 2019 levels. Locally in Ohio 1.9 million will be traveling by car – the most popular mode but only a slight increase of .3 percent.

Air travel is up nearly 8 percent 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 percent of the 2019 volume. For Ohioans air travel is up also. The airports will be crowded with 215,873 people flying – similar to the national trend of an increase of 9 percent.

“Airport parking spaces fill up fast, so reserve a spot ahead of time and arrive early,” Twidale 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 percent from 2021 and 96 percent of the 2019 volume. Much like other across the country, Ohioans have increased in this area too with 60,000 people — an increase of nearly 29 percent — traveling by bus, trains or cruises.

“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,” Twidale 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.

Busiest corridors and best/worst times to travel

INRIX expects severe congestion in several U.S. metro areas, with some drivers experiencing more than double normal delays. Highways in and around Atlanta, Chicago, New York City, and Los Angeles will be the busiest. To avoid the most hectic times, INRIX recommends traveling early in the morning on Wednesday or before 11am on Thanksgiving Day and avoiding travel between 4-8 p.m., Friday, Saturday, and Sunday.

“Thanksgiving is one of the busiest holidays for road trips, and this year will be no different,” says Bob Pishue, Transportation Analyst, INRIX. “Although travel times will peak on Wednesday afternoon nationally, travelers should expect much heavier than normal congestion throughout the holiday weekend. Knowing when and where congestion will build can help drivers avoid the stress of sitting in traffic.”

Holiday prep for travelers

The travel season can be fraught with twists and turn. AAA recommendations for a safe and fun weekend including the following:

Schedule a vehicle maintenance inspection completed before taking off if traveling by car.

Download the AAA app to help find the cheapest gas prices along the road.

Make sure your AAA membership is up to date. Roadside Assistance crews will be out in full force to rescue any stranded drivers.

Crews rescued more than 400,000 driver across the country last Thanksgiving — more than 6,000 of those were in Ohio’s Club Alliance territory.

Download your airline’s app if flying to be sure you are immediately notified of any changes to the schedule.

Pack your identification and any medical and insurance items in an easily accessible spot whether inside your carry-on bag of pocket. Do not pack them in your luggage.

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.

AAA expects nearly 55 million people to travel

R-H Staff