INRIX predicts travel times could be up to 4 times longer over holiday week
By AAA of Western and Central New York
AAA projects 54.3 million Americans will journey 50 miles or more away from home this Thanksgiving, a 4.8 percent increase over last year. The 2018 holiday weekend will see the highest Thanksgiving travel volume in more than a dozen years (since 2005), with 2.5 million more people taking to the nation's roads, skies, rails and waterways compared with last year.
For the 48.5 million Americans planning a Thanksgiving road trip, INRIX, a global mobility analytics company, predicts travel times in the most congested cities in the U.S. could be as much as four times longer than a normal trip.
"Consumers have a lot to be thankful for this holiday season: higher wages, more disposable income and rising levels of household wealth," says Carol DiOrio, AAA Western and Central New York vice president of travel. "This is translating into more travelers kicking off the holiday season with a Thanksgiving getaway, building on a positive year for the travel industry."
The Thanksgiving holiday period is defined as Wednesday, Nov. 21 to Sunday, Nov. 25.
By the Numbers: 2018 Thanksgiving Holiday Travel Forecast
Automobiles: The vast majority of travelers - 48.5 million - will hit the road this Thanksgiving, nearly 5 percent more than last year.
Planes: The largest growth in holiday travel is by air, at 5.4 percent, with 4.27 million travelers.
Trains, Buses and Cruise Ships: Travel across these sectors will increase by 1.4 percent, with a total 1.48 million passengers.
Drivers Beware: Thanksgiving's Terrible Traffic
Based on historical and recent travel trends, INRIX, in collaboration with AAA, predicts drivers will experience the greatest amount of congestion Thanksgiving week during the early evening commute period, with travel times starting to increase on Monday. Drivers in San Francisco, New York City and Boston will see the largest delays - nearly quadruple normal drive times.
"Thanksgiving is one of the busiest holidays for road trips, and this year will be no different," says Trevor Reed, transportation analyst at INRIX. "Our advice to drivers is to avoid commuting times in major cities altogether or plan alternative routes."
Travelers going to New York City can expect Tuesday between 6 to 8 p.m. to be the worst time for travel - taking up to 3.5 times the normal amount of time.
In most cases, the best days to travel will be on Thanksgiving Day, Friday or Saturday. Drivers should expect increased travel times on Sunday, as most holiday travelers will be making their way home after the long weekend.
Across the country, travelers who take to the sky must account for long security lines, but also increased drive times to the airport. INRIX expects delays getting to the nation's busiest airports could be as long as 90 minutes.
Higher Gas Prices Not Keeping Holiday Travelers Home
Motorists can expect to pay the highest Thanksgiving gas prices in four years, with a national average of $2.75 as of Nov. 8 - 21-cents more than a year ago.
"Motorists have become accustomed to this year's more expensive gas prices and won't let higher fuel costs deter them from taking Thanksgiving road trips," said AAA gas price expert Jeanette Casselano.
Best Times to Fly & Book Thanksgiving Flights
An analysis of AAA's flight booking data from the past three years revealed the Tuesday and Wednesday prior to Thanksgiving are usually the most popular air travel days and have the highest average price per roundtrip ticket. Meanwhile, Thanksgiving Day consistently has the lowest average price per ticket and is the lightest travel day. Travelers looking to save money this holiday season can fly the morning of the holiday and arrive just in time for Thanksgiving dinner.
Most travelers booked their flights for Thanksgiving between Sept. 23 and Oct. 25, paying an average ticket price of $478 roundtrip. Procrastinating travelers who still need to book their flights may find cheaper airfares, paying an average ticket price of $459 between now and Nov. 15. However, last-minute flight availability will likely be very limited.
Car Rental Costs Fall, Hotel Prices Mixed
Travelers can expect to save on car rentals this Thanksgiving holiday season. At $63, the average daily rate is 10 percent less than last year, according to AAA's Leisure Travel Index. Travelers can also save on AAA Three Diamond hotels, with an average nightly rate of $166, a decline of 6 percent compared to last year. Conversely, the average rate for AAA Two Diamond hotels has increased 6 percent with an average nightly cost of $124.
Top 10 Thanksgiving Destinations
Many travelers will seek iconic American cities, theme parks and other warm-weather destinations this Thanksgiving. Orlando, New York City and Anaheim top this year's top 10 holiday destinations based on AAA's online and travel agency air and tour bookings. Punta Cana, Dallas/Fort Worth and Miami are all gaining popularity as holiday spots compared with last year.
The top 10:
- New York City
- Anaheim, California
- Punta Cana, Dominican Republic
- Las Vegas
- Cancun, Mexico
- Dallas/Fort Worth, Texas
- Washington, D.C.
AAA to Rescue Nearly 360,000 Motorists
AAA expects to rescue nearly 360,000 motorists at the roadside this Thanksgiving. Dead batteries, lockouts and flat tires will be the leading reasons AAA members will experience car trouble. AAA recommends motorists take their vehicle to a trusted repair facility to perform any needed maintenance before heading out. Oil changes, fluid level checks, battery tests and tire inspections go a long way toward reducing the chances of a breakdown.
Before heading out on a trip for Thanksgiving, travelers can download the free AAA mobile app for iPhone, iPad and Android. They can use the app to map a route, find the lowest gas prices, access exclusive member discounts, make travel arrangements, request AAA roadside assistance, find AAA Approved Auto Repair facilities and more. Learn more at AAA.com/mobile
AAA's projections are based on economic forecasting and research by IHS Markit. The London-based business information provider 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. The complete AAA/IHS Markit 2018 Thanksgiving holiday travel forecast is available HERE.
As upstate New York's largest member services organization, AAA Western and Central New York provides more than 870,000 members with travel, insurance, financial and automotive-related services. Since its founding in 1902, AAA has been a leading advocate for the safety and security of all travelers. Visit AAA at www.AAA.com.