AAA: 49 million to drive, fly, cruise over Thanksgiving holiday

This holiday, AAA estimates an estimated 49 million folks — a nearly 2% increase over last year and the most travelers since 2007 — will travel between Nov. 23 and Nov. 27, according to AAA’s annual holiday travel survey.

Of the overall number,

  • 89% or 43.5 million people expect to travel 50 miles or more by motor vehicle. This is a 1.9% increase over last year.

  • Another estimated 8% or 3.69 million will travel by plane, up 1.6% compared to last year; and

  • The remaining 3% or 1.44 million will go by train, boat or other mode of transportation.

Closer to home, the New England region is projected to outpace national projections in all modes of travel, based in part because of the stability in the regional price of gasoline. More than 2.1 million New Englanders, a 2.4% increase, are expected to travel this year. In addition, AAA estimates U.S. drivers nationally have saved more than $28 billion so far at the pumps this year compared to the same period last year because of gas prices.

So what’s driving this year’s Turkey travel? According to AAA’s survey, there are two elements:

  • First, the economy — including rising wages, greater consumer spending, higher consumer confidence and more money in our pockets for the gas savings we got from lower gas prices this year; and

  • Second, it’s “Tradition” to quote Tevye from Fiddler on the Roof. Thanksgiving has always been known as the holiday for family and friends to gather so that traditional desire to spend time with loved ones is expected to propel a significant increase in travel.

Even though today’s national average price of a gallon of gas is $2.15, is more than Thanksgiving 2015 when prices averaged $2.05, US motorists generally will pay the second cheapest Thanksgiving prices since 2008 when the national average was $1.85.

To compare this to Connecticut’s, today’s statewide average of $2.31 is a nickel more than Thanksgiving 2015 when prices averaged $2.26. In 2008, Thanksgiving Day prices were around $2.03.

A mixed bag for airfares, hotel rates, car rentals

According to AAA’s Leisure Travel index:

  • Airfares are projected to increase 21% this holding, 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 be flat with travelers spending an average $155 each night;

  • Rates for AAA Two Diamond-rated lodgings are expected to rise 4% with an average nightly cost of $123; and

  • Daily car rental rates are expected to average $52, 13% lower than last Thanksgiving.

Westward Ho!

The survey also identified this year’s top vacation destinations for Thanksgiving, including several popular West Coast cities and the perennial family-friendly favorites. The most popular destinations this Thanksgiving, based on bookings, are: Las Vegas, San Francisco, San Diego, Orlando, New York City, New Orleans, Anaheim, Fort Lauderdale, Philadelphia and Seattle.

AAA’s travel projections are based on economic forecasting and research by IHS Markit, which first 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.

AAA Northeast is a not-for-profit auto club with 62 offices in Rhode Island, Massachusetts, Connecticut, New Jersey, New Hampshire and New York, providing more than 2 million local AAA members with travel, insurance, finance, and auto-related services.