BOISE – In a fitting reflection of the holiday, the roads and airports will be pretty stuffed over Thanksgiving weekend.
According to AAA, 55.4 million Americans, including nearly 314,000 Idahoans, will journey 50 miles or more for turkey and all the trimmings – 1.3 million travelers more than a year ago.
The Thanksgiving travel period is defined as Wednesday, November 22 to Sunday, November 26.
AAA projects that the busiest times on the road will be Tuesday and Wednesday from 2:00 – 6:00 PM, as vacationers share the highways with the evening commute, and from 3:00 – 5:00 PM on Sunday for the return. The best time to travel each day of the holiday break is before 11:00 AM.
Tuesday will also be the busiest day at the airport. AAA notes that airlines have moved to larger planes with fewer flights, which will result in busy TSA lines throughout the holiday season. “Thanksgiving is all about family, and even with concerns about the economy and their financial future, people aren’t willing to sacrifice time with loved ones,” says AAA Idaho public affairs director Matthew Conde. “Gas prices are significantly better than last year, and in some cases, people may also extend their vacation through remote work to avoid some of the bigger headaches on the road and in the air.”
Top Ten Thanksgiving destinations for Idaho travelers
- Anaheim, CA
- Salt Lake City, UT
- Las Vegas, NV
- Phoenix, AZ
- Orlando, FL
- Seattle, WA
- Oregon Coast
- Jackson, WY
- Billings, MT
“Theme parks, warm weather, and perhaps a little bit of skiing will be sprinkled into many of the Thanksgiving adventures this year,” Conde said. “But with traffic expected to reach pre-pandemic levels of congestion, building some extra time into your travel plans is a smart move.”
Car travel accelerates, air travel soars in popularity
Slightly less than 89% of Thanksgiving vacationers will go by car – about 49 million Americans total. Another 4.7 million will fly, which is 290,000 more than a year ago. AAA predicts that airplanes will transport 8.5% of all travelers, the largest share for this travel mode since the mid-2000s.
“Thanksgiving happens on a very tight schedule, so many families are choosing a faster mode of transportation to maximize their time together on the ground. But of course, no matter how you travel, large crowds and inclement weather are wild cards that may factor into your experience.”
More than 1.5 million Americans will go by bus, train, or cruise ship to celebrate Thanksgiving this year. In the West, a proportionately larger share of travelers will use mass transit options to affordably cover longer distances than in other parts of the country.
Unlike recent years, airport, hotel, and rental counter staffing levels are almost back to normal. TSA is also aggressively ramping up staffing levels for the holidays to help mitigate long security lines.
Holiday booking prices
This year, travelers are generally paying less for a domestic trip (defined as the Wednesday-Sunday of the holiday travel period), but slightly more on airfare. According to AAA booking data:
- The average price for a domestic flight is $681, up 5% from last year
- The average price for a domestic hotel stay is $598, down 12% from last year
- The average price for a domestic rental car reservation is $590, down 20% from last year
- The average price for a domestic cruise is $1,507, down 15% from last year
- The average price for a domestic tour is $1,058, down 21% from last year
Falling gas prices help Thanksgiving travel budget
This year, gas prices will be less of an obstacle in Thanksgiving travel plans. According to AAA, today’s average price for a gallon of regular in the Gem State is $3.77, which is six cents less than a week ago, 24 cents less than a month ago, and 49 cents less than a year ago.
The national average currently sits at $3.37 per gallon, which is five cents less than a week ago, 26 cents less than a month ago, and 41 cents cheaper than a year ago. Idaho currently ranks 7th in the country for most expensive fuel.
“Fuel is the price of admission for most road trips, and when pump prices are high, some families are forced to offset that expense with other changes to their travel plans,” Conde said. “Hopefully, this year’s cheaper prices will allow more people to fill up and hit the road, and maybe even put an extra pie or two on the dining room table.”
AAA says that lower crude oil costs, which have been under the $80/barrel mark for the past several days, are slowly driving down the price of gasoline and diesel. With Utah and Montana’s current pump prices at $3.53 and $3.46 respectively, more savings could come to Idaho drivers soon.
The AAA mobile app helps travelers find the cheapest fuel and the location of EV charging stations in their area. A comprehensive list of hotels with EV charging capability can also be found online in AAA’s digital TourBooks at AAA.com/tourbook.
AAA to the rescue
AAA will respond to as many as 368,000 calls for emergency road service over Thanksgiving weekend, with roughly 700 requests in Idaho. While some mechanical issues can’t be prevented, some of the most common vehicle problems, such as flat tires, dead batteries, and lockouts, can.
Have a trusted mechanic perform a pre-trip inspection to ensure that necessary repairs and scheduled maintenance are completed before you start your holiday travels. Many oil change shops also offer a top-off policy for engine fluids.
“We use the acronym B-E-T as a great starting point for your vehicle inspection,” Conde said. “If your battery, engine fluids, hoses, and belts, and tires are in good condition, you’ll greatly improve your chances of avoiding unexpected delays at the roadside.”
For a complete list of AAA Approved Auto Repair facilities in your area, visit AAA.com/autorepair.
“Travel continues to rebound in a big way. It took roughly ten years to bounce back from the Great Recession, but in about four years, we’ve just about made it back to pre-pandemic travel volumes,” Conde shared. “In the short-term, people have the confidence to take a trip, and whenever they need our help, we’ll be ready.”