54 million Americans including 704,000 Oregonians to carve out time for travel

PORTLAND, Ore., – AAA projects 54.3 million Americans (16.5 percent of the population) will journey 50 miles or more away from home this Thanksgiving, a 4.8 percent increase over last year. About 704,000 Oregonians will head over the river and through the woods.

Thanksgiving travel projections 2018

The 2018 holiday weekend will see the highest Thanksgiving travel volume since 2005 when 58.6 million travelled. This year, 2.5 million more people are taking to the nation’s roads, skies, rails and waterways compared to last year. The Thanksgiving holiday travel period is defined as Wednesday, November 21 through Sunday, November 25.

“This Thanksgiving will see the second-highest travel volume on record, only behind 2005. In fact, this is the 10th consecutive year of growth in Thanksgiving travel,” says Marie Dodds, public affairs director for AAA Oregon/Idaho. “Most will drive to their holiday destinations to enjoy turkey and all the trimmings with family and friends, although all modes of travel are showing increases compared to last year. Air travel gets the biggest bump with growth at more than five percent over 2017.”

Pacific Region also sees boost

In the Pacific region (Washington, Oregon, California, Alaska and Hawaii), 9.2 million travelers (17 percent of the population) are expected to travel for the holiday weekend, an increase of 5.1 percent compared to last year. About 704,000 Oregonians will travel.

Quick stats

Highest Thanksgiving travel volume since 2005 with 54.3 million Americans traveling, up 4.8 percent over last year. About 704,000 Oregonians will head over the river and through the woods.

Road trip ready: 89 percent of all travelers – 48.5 million – are planning a Thanksgiving road trip, an increase of 4.9 percent over last year. In Oregon, roughly 609,000 will drive.

Busy skies: Air travel will see the biggest increase in travel volume at 5.4 percent with 4.3 million going by air.

Airfare costs 5 percent more than last year. Average ticket price is $478 roundtrip.

Alternate travel also rises: Travel by trains and other modes (including buses and cruises) is up 1.4 percent to 1.48 million travelers.

Fueling up: Drivers will pay the highest Thanksgiving pump prices since 2014 nationally and 2013 in Oregon with gas prices 20 to 50 cents a gallon more than last year.

Cheaper car rentals: Rates are down 10 percent from last year at $63 per day.

Hotel costs show modest increases or decreases, depending on the property.

Heaviest traffic expected Tuesday and Wednesday afternoon/evening. Some highways could see delays of nearly four times over the normal trip. Most will return on Sunday.

AAA to the Rescue: AAA will rescue 360,000 drivers nationally and about 5,000 in Oregon and Idaho. Dead batteries, lockouts and flat tires are the top three issues.

It’s the economy

Economic growth remains strong, supporting high levels of consumer spending with wages, disposable income and household wealth all increasing. This is fueling a strong year for the travel industry which will continue through the holiday season.

Wednesday is busiest travel day; most travelers will return on Sunday. Heaviest traffic expected Tuesday and Wednesday evenings

The majority of travelers plan to leave the day before Thanksgiving and return the following Sunday. Nearly a quarter of all travelers typically return on Monday, Nov. 26 or later.

INRIX, in collaboration with AAA, predicts drivers will experience the greatest amount of congestion during the afternoon and early evening—with travel times starting to increase on Monday of Thanksgiving week—as commuters mix with holiday travelers. At its peak, drivers on some interstates and highways could see delays of nearly four times over normal drive times.

Thanksgiving travel projections 2018

The most congested times are expected to be Tuesday afternoon/evening from 3 to 6 p.m. and Wednesday from 2 to 7 p.m. as travelers head to their destinations; and much of Sunday afternoon and evening as holiday travelers return home after the long weekend. The lightest travel days are Thanksgiving Day, Friday and Saturday.

“You can avoid the biggest traffic bottlenecks if you can drive outside of the peak times,” says Dodds. “Still, with the travel volume so high, you’ll have company whenever you go so pack your patience and give yourself extra time to get to your destination.”

Most will travel by car despite higher gas prices

More than 89 percent of travelers (48.5 million people or 15 percent of the population) plan to drive to their Thanksgiving destinations. This is a 4.9 percent increase compared to last year and the highest number of car travelers since 2005.

Thanksgiving travel projections 2018

In the Pacific region, 86 percent of all travelers (7.9 million travelers or 14.7 percent of the population) will go by car, an increase of 5.2 percent compared to 2017. In Oregon, roughly 609,000 are planning a Thanksgiving road trip.

Highest Thanksgiving gas prices in several years

AAA says gas prices are 20 to 50 cents a gallon more than a year ago. The national average for Thanksgiving will be at its highest price since 2014. In Oregon, drivers will pay the highest Thanksgiving pump prices since 2013.

“Higher gas prices usually don’t have a dramatic impact on Thanksgiving travel as people want to keep their plans to spend time with friends and family. Those who need to cut expenses will do so in other ways without canceling their trips,” says Dodds. “Gas prices throughout 2018 have been more expensive than the past few years so drivers have become accustomed to the higher fuel costs and they won’t keep folks home.”

Air travel sees biggest growth

The largest growth in holiday travel is by air travel which is expected to increase by 5.4 percent nationally, with 4.3 million Americans (7.9 percent of holiday travelers or 1.3 percent of the population) flying to their holiday destinations. This is the highest volume seen for the holiday since 2007.

In the Pacific Region, 1 million people (11.2 percent of holiday travelers or 1.9 percent of the population) will fly to their holiday destination. This is an increase of 5.9 percent compared to 2017. The Pacific region is geographically more spread out and typically sees a higher than average share of its population fly and this is the case for this Thanksgiving.

Busiest air travel days are Tuesday, Wednesday and Sunday; airfares up 5 percent

An analysis of AAA’s flight booking data from the last three years shows that the Tuesday and Wednesday prior to Thanksgiving are usually the most popular air travel days and have the highest average price per roundtrip ticket. Most travelers are flying back home on Sunday. Meanwhile, Thanksgiving Day consistently has the lowest average price per ticket and is the lightest travel day.

Most travelers booked their flights for Thanksgiving between September 23 and October 25, paying an average ticket price of $478 roundtrip. Those taking to the skies will pay about five percent more for airfare this year according to AAA’s Leisure Travel Index.

Thanksgiving travel projections 2018

Procrastinating travelers who still need to book their flights may find cheaper airfares, paying an average ticket price of $459 between now and November 15. However, last-minute flight availability will likely be very limited.

Those flying should arrive at the airport at least two hours before domestic flights and three hours before international flights. Visit TSA.gov for the latest info on getting through security.

“You definitely want to get to the airport early for Thanksgiving travel. Not only are the airports more crowded but it’s also a time when we see an increase in the number of folks who don’t normally fly which can slow security lines,” says Dodds.

Travel by other modes also rises

Travel by other modes of transportation, including cruises, trains and buses, will increase 1.4 percent this Thanksgiving to 1.48 million travelers.

Hotel rates up or down, depending on the property; car rental rates fall

According to AAA’s Leisure Travel Index, rates for AAA Three Diamond Rated lodgings are expected to decrease six percent to an average of $166 per night down from $176 a year ago. The average rate for a AAA Two Diamond Rated hotel is up five percent with an average nightly cost of $124 up from $117 last year.

Daily car rental rates are down 10 percent from last year with an average daily rate of $63 down from $70 a year ago.

Top Thanksgiving destinations:

This year’s top destinations for Thanksgiving based on AAA bookings at AAA Oregon/Idaho include popular West Coast and Hawaiian cities, as well as perennial family-friendly favorites:

  1. Anaheim, California
  2. Maui, Hawaii
  3. Honolulu, Hawaii
  4. Las Vegas, Nevada
  5. Cabo San Lucas, Mexico
  6. Phoenix/Scottsdale, Arizona
  7. Orlando, Florida
  8. San Diego, California
  9. New York City, New Y ork
  10. Cancun, Mexico

Other top spots include central Oregon, the Oregon coast, Seattle, San Francisco/Bay area and British Columbia, Canada.

#AAAToTheRescue this Thanksgiving: dead batteries, flat tires and lockouts.

AAA expects to respond to more than 330,000 calls for help nationally and about 5,000 in Oregon and Idaho this Thanksgiving. The top three issues are dead batteries, flat tires and lockouts.

Thanksgiving travel projections 2018

Before heading out on a road trip, AAA recommends you check the condition of your battery and tires. AAA members can schedule a time for a AAA battery technician to come to your vehicle and test your battery, starter and alternator. We’ll even deliver a new battery, install it and take away your old one.

Carry chains and know how to put them on. Pack an emergency kit. Make sure you, your passengers and your car are ready for winter driving conditions.

Have your vehicle inspected by a trusted repair shop, such as one of the nearly 7,000 AAA Approved Auto Repair facilities across North America. Oil changes, fluid level checks, battery tests and tire inspections go a long way toward reducing the chances of a breakdown.

Download the AAA Mobile app, visit AAA.com or call 1-800-AAA-HELP to request roadside assistance.

Download the AAA Mobile app before a Thanksgiving getaway

Before setting out on a Thanksgiving trip, download the free AAA Mobile app for iPhone, iPad and Android. The app can help map a route, find lowest gas prices and the closest EV charging stations, 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.

With the AAA Mobile app, travelers can also find 59,000 AAA Approved and Diamond Rated hotels and restaurants. AAA’s is the only rating system that uses full-time, professionally trained evaluators to inspect each property on an annual basis. Every AAA Inspected and Approved establishment offers the assurance of acceptable cleanliness, comfort and hospitality, and ratings of One to Five Diamonds help travelers find the right match for amenities and services.

Thanksgiving travel projections 2018

Holiday Forecast Methodology

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 / HIS Markit 2018 Thanksgiving holiday forecast can be found at NewsRoom.AAA.com.


AAA news releases, high resolution images, broadcast-quality video, fact sheets and podcasts are available on the AAA NewsRoom at NewsRoom.AAA.com.

For more information visit www.AAA.com. AAA Oregon/Idaho provides more than 800,000 members with travel, insurance, financial and automotive-related services, and is an affiliate of AAA National, serving nearly 59 million members in North America. Since its founding in 1902, the not-for-profit, fully tax-paying AAA has been a leader and advocate for the safety and security of all travelers.