Americans are expected to gobble up traveling for Thanksgiving this year like we used to, back before the pandemic.
AAA predicts 55.4 million Americans – nearly 17% of us – will trek 50 miles or more to celebrate the holiday, making this Thanksgiving 2.3% busier than last year and the third-most-congested on our highways and in the air since AAA started tracking Turkey Day travel back in 2000. Only 2005 and 2019, a year before COVID-19 altered our worlds, were forecasted to be busier.
Most Thanksgiving travelers – nearly 89%, according to AAA – will go by car this year, meaning an estimated 834,700 revelers compared to 2022. That’s a 1.7% increase.
In Minnesota, many of us won’t drive far, however. A national survey commissioned by a Florida-based car dealership found that residents of the Gopher State are willing to travel only 3½ hours for “Mom’s Thanksgiving cooking.” Residents of 35 other states will go farther, with Wyomingites, at 14 hours, the most willing to trek for taters and all the fixings. Residents of Rhode Island are the most impatient when it comes to getting their turkey legs. They’re willing to go only one hour, Gunther Mazda said in announcing its findings.
Those traveling by car will be heartened to read that gas prices are down this year. In 2022, the national average was $3.58 per gallon. This year, the national average has dropped 55 cents a gallon over the past two months to $3.33. It could go as low as $3.25 by Thursday. Gas prices haven’t been this low on Thanksgiving since 2020 when most of us were more concerned about our health than driving anywhere anyway.
Not that gas prices have ever mattered much when deciding whether to go or not go for this family-, parades-, and football on TV-oriented holiday.
“Higher gas prices don’t seem to be enough to (completely) stop people from traveling to be with family and friends,” AAA spokeswoman Meredith Mitts said in a statement just ahead of Thanksgiving 2022. “We’ve found that when gas prices are high, travelers look to offset the added cost by spending less on a hotel, shopping or dining out.”
Air travelers, sorry, but flights are expected to be 6.6% pricier this year over last year – which was up 8% from 2021, according to AAA. Airplanes will be more packed, too, with the highest numbers of Thanksgiving passengers since 2005.
“For many Americans, Thanksgiving and travel go hand in hand, and this holiday we expect more people on the roads, skies, and seas compared to 2022,” senior vice president of AAA Travel Paula Twidale said in a statement last week. “Travel demand has been strong all year, and AAA’s Thanksgiving forecast reflects that continued desire to get away and spend time with loved ones.”
No matter how you’re planning to reach your destination, here are some tips and advice, both from AAA and FEMA:
- Double check travel restrictions at your destination. Get your flu shot and COVID-19 booster before going. Wear a mask in public, and wash your hands often.
- Ensure you have an emergency supply kit in your car. If going by air or train, carry a kit with you with things in it like a flashlight, batteries, and charger cord.
- Practice smart cooking: Stay in the kitchen when anything is on the stove or on a hot plate. Turn pot handles toward the back of the stove so they don’t get bumped.
- If you get an early start on Christmas decorating this weekend, do so with care. Nearly half of holiday-decoration fires happen because decorations are placed too close to a heat source. Water your Christmas tree every day.
- If driving, traffic should be lightest during morning and late-evening hours and on Thanksgiving Day. Be sure your vehicle is in good working order. AAA expects hundreds of thousands of motorists in need of roadside assistance this holiday weekend, many for dead batteries, flat tires, or lockouts. Move over for tow trucks, emergency responders, or disabled vehicles you encounter on the shoulders of highways.
- And if you’re flying, check in early, two to three hours ahead of your scheduled departure. Pack medications and an extra set of clothes in your carry-on bag in case your flight is delayed or canceled. And consider purchasing travel insurance to protect yourself financially from delays and cancellations.
Bottom line if you’re traveling for Turkey Day this year — and a lot of us are: Do it smart, do it safely. And go ahead, have that extra piece of pumpkin pie.