BOISE – Thanksgiving travel will continue to rebound in a big way this year. According to AAA, 54.6 million Americans, including nearly 312,000 Idahoans, will hit the road or head to the airport for a Turkey Day trip this year, an increase of 1.5% from a year ago.
“This year’s travel volume is back to just below pre-pandemic levels, despite the challenge of higher prices for fuel and the other necessities to make it possible,” says AAA Idaho public affairs director Matthew Conde. “Clearly, people see family gatherings as an investment in their quality of life.”
This year, the Thanksgiving travel period is defined as Wednesday, November 23 to Sunday, November 27. While Tuesday is expected to be the busiest day at the airports, drivers should try to avoid peak congestion on Tuesday afternoon and Wednesday, especially as holiday travelers share the road with the morning and evening commute.
Here are some of the top regional and national destinations for this year’s Turkey Day travel:
- Salt Lake City, UT
- Seattle, WA
- Bend, OR
- Billings, MT
- Jackson Hole, WY
- Oregon Coast
- Denver, CO
- Spokane, WA
- St. George, UT
- Reno, NV
- Anaheim, CA
- Maui, HI
- Las Vegas, NV
- Phoenix, AZ
- Oahu, HI
- Cabo San Lucas, Mexico
- San Diego, CA
- Orlando, FL
- Fort Lauderdale, FL
- Cancun, Mexico
“Even if families have to draw down their savings, they’re committed to their vacation plans,” Conde said. “They may scale back fine dining or other activities, but consumers are powering through rising prices to see their loved ones. With all the stress and doom and gloom that people deal with every day, they want and need some time away.”
Car travel hits cruise control, air travel soars, other modes boom
AAA predicts that auto travel will be slightly higher than last year, with nearly 49 million Americans expected to take a road trip this Thanksgiving. On the way home, drivers should avoid peak hours of congestion between 4 PM and 8 PM on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday, especially in metro areas.
Thanksgiving airline travel is expected to increase by 8% to 4.5 million Americans, or nearly 99% of the pre-pandemic volume.
“With an airplane fleet that has been reduced by staffing shortages and to maximize efficiency, travelers can expect more connecting flights and more crowded planes over the holiday weekend,” Conde said. “There shouldn’t be as many cancellations due to logistical issues, but weather is always the big caveat this time of year. It’s best to avoid checking luggage so that you have easy access to your belongings if circumstances change, but if that isn’t possible, keep your toiletries, prescriptions, and at least one change of clothes in your carry-on bag.”
Airport security checkpoints are expected to be very crowded, as will rental car counters. Major hubs like Salt Lake City, Seattle, and L.A. may be nearly twice as busy as usual during peak traffic.
AAA predicts that more holiday travelers will also branch out into other modes, with a 23% increase in the number of Americans who will go by bus, train, and cruise ship this year.
“When it comes to planes, trains, and automobiles, it’s important to think strategically,” Conde said. “Price, travel flexibility, and time constraints should all factor into your decision.”
Hotel rates rise, air fares skyrocket, but car rentals tap the brakes
According to AAA data, the average price of a AAA Two or Three Diamond hotel room will be about 15% more expensive than a year ago, while airfares to the most popular destinations will jump by an average of 22% per ticket. Daily rental car rates, which surged during the pandemic due to limited inventory, are expected to drop by 7% this year.
AAA to the rescue
AAA projects that it will respond to 411,000 calls for emergency road service nationwide, including 700 here in Idaho. The biggest culprits will be engine problems, dead batteries, flat tires, and lockouts.
“You can never go wrong with a pre-trip inspection from a trusted mechanic,” Conde said. “Left unchecked, a small problem can easily become a big headache at the roadside.”
For a list of AAA Approved Auto Repair facilities, visit AAA.com/autorepair.
“No matter how you travel, you can alleviate stress by leaving early and building in plenty of time to arrive,” Conde said. “And as always, one of the most important things you can pack on a holiday vacation is your patience.”