You can blame the economy if you get stuck in traffic on your way to Thanksgiving dinner next week.
AAA is predicting the busiest Thanksgiving travel season in nine years, spurred in part by improvements to the economy during the second half of the year, including rising wages, increased consumer spending and overall strength in consumer confidence.
AAA is projecting 49 million Americans will journey 50 miles or more from home during this year’s Thanksgiving travel period from Wednesday, Nov. 23 to Sunday, Nov. 27 — a near 2 percent increase that translates to more than one million more travelers than last year.
“One million more Americans than last year will carve out time to visit with friends and family this Thanksgiving,” AAA President and CEO Marshall Doney said. “Most will travel on the tried and true holiday road trip, thanks to gas prices that are holding at close to $2 per gallon. Others will fly, take the bus or set off on a cruise to celebrate with their loved ones.”
The Thanksgiving holiday travel period is defined as Wednesday, Nov. 23, to Sunday, Nov. 27.
AAA’s travel projections are based on economic forecasting and research by IHS Markit, which analyzed travel and consumer trends to predict this year’s travel.
Despite recent incremental increases in the national average price of gasoline, 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. Thanksgiving gas prices will continue that trend, with most U.S. drivers expected to pay the second-cheapest Thanksgiving gas prices since 2008, when the national average was $1.85.
That’s one of the reasons most travelers — more than 89 percent — will drive this Thanksgiving.
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.
This year’s top vacation 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:
1. Las Vegas, Nevada
2. San Francisco, California
3. San Diego, California
4. Orlando, Florida
5. New York, New York
6. New Orleans, Louisiana
7. Anaheim, California
8. Fort Lauderdale, Florida
9. Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
10. Seattle, Washington