More than 55 million Americans including 785,000 Oregonians to travel for turkey
Updated November 23, 2023
PORTLAND, Ore., – AAA projects 55.4 million Americans (16.5% of the population) will travel 50 miles or more from home for the Thanksgiving holiday, up 2.3% from 2022. This year is expected to be the third-busiest for Thanksgiving travel since AAA started tracking in 2000, only behind 2005 and 2019. About 785,000 Oregonians will head over the river and through the woods for turkey and all the trimmings. The Thanksgiving holiday travel period is defined as Wednesday, November 22 through Sunday, November 26.
Most Thanksgiving travelers – nearly 89% – will drive to their Thanksgiving destinations. Air travel is seeing a 6.6% increase compared to last year. Americans are also heading to their Thanksgiving destination by other modes of travel including bus, train or cruise ship. These modes are up 11% over 2022. Find all the details below.
“More than most other holidays, Thanksgiving is about spending time with loved ones, and Americans are eager to carve out time to see family and friends and enjoy the big feast,” says Marie Dodds, public affairs director for AAA Oregon/Idaho. “The long holiday weekend is shaping up to be one of the busiest for travel in the past two decades. Roads and airports will be stuffed so expect lots of company whether you’re driving, flying or cruising.”
“Demand for travel has been strong all year, and this Thanksgiving will see more travelers take to the roads, skies and seas compared to last year. With some planning and preparation, you can have an enjoyable trip. Weather is always the wild card so be prepared for the possibility of winter storms. Use your AAA membership to find discounts and rewards, work with a travel agent, and consider travel insurance as well as medical travel insurance to protect your investment,” says Doreen Loofburrow, senior vice president of travel for AAA Oregon/Idaho.
Most will travel by car
AAA projects 88.7% of travelers (49.1 million Americans) will drive to their Thanksgiving destination. This is a 1.7% increase over 2022.
In Oregon, roughly 671,000 travelers will drive.
While automobile travel will increase this year, it will remain lower than 2019 when 49.9 million Americans drove.
Air travel sees boost; Air fares cost more for U.S. travel and less for international flights
Thanksgiving air travel will increase by 6.6% this year, soaring to 4.7 million travelers flying over the holiday weekend. This is the highest number of air travelers since 2005. In all, about 8.5% of Thanksgiving travelers will fly to their holiday destinations.
Approximately 97,000 Oregonians will travel by air.
It costs more to fly in the U.S. and less to fly internationally this Thanksgiving. AAA finds that the average price for a domestic flight is $681, up 5% from 2022. The average price for an international flight is $1,231, down 5.7% from last year.
Tuesday and Wednesday before Thanksgiving are the busiest air travel days ahead of the holiday and the most expensive. While Sunday is typically the busiest day to return home, AAA data shows Monday is also a popular day to fly back after Thanksgiving.
Those wanting to book last-minute travel and who are flexible with travel plans may find the best fares now (about seven to 14 days before Thanksgiving), but availability will be limited. Travelers who want to be at their destination on a certain date are best to book flights well in advance.
Those who fly should expect full flights. Any weather or mechanical issues can make it difficult for airlines to catch up as there are fewer options to book travelers on alternate flights.
Advice for Air Travelers
- Book the first flight of the day or early morning flights if you can. They are less likely to be cancelled or delayed.
- Try not to book tight connecting flights – you’ll want enough time to change flights in case your originating flight is late.
- If possible, avoid airports for connecting flights where winter weather can lead to delays, including Chicago O’Hare, Newark Liberty, LaGuardia, Denver, and JFK.
- If you really need to be at your destination on a certain day, book flights a day or two early so that you have a buffer.
- FlightAware and other sites let you track your incoming flight so you can find other options if that flight is late or cancelled.
- Get to the airport early – two hours before domestic flights and three hours before international flights. The increase in travelers can make for longer than usual wait times to get through security.
- If you need to park at the airport, book a parking spot in advance or at least check on availability before you go. Better yet, take transit, use a ride sharing service, or get a ride from a friend to the airport.
- Make sure your bags have name tags, and also put your name and contact info inside each bag.
- Bring a refillable water bottle and snacks. Many airlines allow you to pre-order food up to 24 hours before your flight. The TSA allows solid foods through screening but liquids or gels (such as yogurt) must comply with the 3-1-1 liquids rule.
- Consider signing up for TSA PreCheck, Global Entry and/or CLEAR to expedite the security screening process. Do make sure the airports you use offer CLEAR as it’s not available at all airports.
Travel by bus, train and cruise also rises
Travel by other modes, including buses, trains, and cruises, will climb to 1.55 million, an increase of nearly 11% from 2022. Roughly 21,000 Oregonians will travel by these modes this year.
“Cruising is very popular this year with most Thanksgiving cruises sold out. Cruising took a major hit during the pandemic, but has made a strong comeback. Cruising is an appealing way to travel because it’s family friendly, there’s something for all ages, there’s a wide variety of ships and amenities, and you get to visit multiple destinations but only have to unpack once,” says Loofburrow.
Gas Prices lower than last year
Last year, drivers paid the most expensive gas prices ever for a Thanksgiving holiday. This year, drivers are enjoying savings at the pump.
“Gas prices have been steadily moving lower for several weeks, and decreases are expected to continue for the near future. While some areas that are popular with tourists may see small increases in pump prices over the holiday, most drivers will continue to enjoy falling gas prices, barring unforeseen events,” says Dodds.
AAA members can fill up for less at Shell stations when they join the Fuel Rewards® program at AAA.com/Shell. Save 30¢/gal on your first fill-up at Shell when you join the Fuel Rewards® program by 12/31/23 and make your first transaction within 30 days of joining. After that, save 5¢/gal every day on each individual fill-up of up to 20 gallons from participating Shell stations.
Find more fuel saving tips here.
Peak traffic expected Tuesday, Wednesday and Sunday
Drivers can expect congestion on the days before Thanksgiving and again on Sunday as travelers return home. Wednesday afternoon and evening will be the busiest as commuters leave work early and mix with holiday travelers. Tuesday afternoon and evening will also see heavy traffic. INRIX, in collaboration with AAA, says metro areas across the U.S. could see more than double the delays versus typical drive times, and larger urban areas could experience up to three times the normal delays.
“Since Thanksgiving is one of the busiest holidays for road trips, drivers will encounter peak traffic delays on Tuesday and Wednesday as travelers head to their destinations, and again on Sunday as folks drive back home. Roads will continue to be busier than normal throughout the holiday weekend. Avoiding the busiest travel times can help drivers avoid the stress of sitting in stop-and-go traffic,” says Dodds.
AAA also recommends that travelers use traffic apps, local Department of Transportation notifications, and 511 services to get real-time updates.
Top Thanksgiving destinations
These are the trending destinations for domestic, international, and regional travel for members of AAA Oregon/Idaho based on bookings by our AAA travel agents and at AAA.com.
Holiday travel costs
This holiday season, AAA finds that travelers are generally paying less for domestic trips compared to last year and more for international vacations. The one exception is airfare, which is slightly more expensive for domestic flights this season and a bit lower for international flights.
Here’s a breakdown of average booking prices for November and December, according to AAA data.
- The average price for a domestic flight is $681, up 5% from 2022.
- The average price for an international flight is $1,231, down 5.7% from last year.
- The average price for a domestic hotel stay is $598, down 12% from 2022.
- The average price for an international hotel stay is $772, up 5% from last year.
- The average price for a domestic rental car reservation is $590, down 20% from 2022.
- The average price for an international rental car reservation is $696, up 9% from last year.
- See AAA’s rental cars do’s and don’ts for advice.
- The average price for a domestic cruise is $1,507, down 12% compared to 2022.
- The average price for an international cruise is $2,902, up 24% from last year.
- The average price for a domestic tour is $1,058, down 15% compared to 2022.
- The average price for an international tour is $1,208, up 21% from last year.
What to know before you go – AAA tips for travelers
- Book your flights, lodging, camping, rental car and activities in advance. While deals may be available to those who wait until the last minute to book, high demand means availability can be greatly reduced.
- Take all necessary travel documentation, including health insurance cards.
- Consider working with a travel agent. They can help you plan the trip that meets your needs and comfort level this holiday season, provide the best value for your vacation dollars, explore travel insurance options, assist with any last-minute changes to travel plans, and act as an advocate if the unexpected happens.
- AAA strongly recommends travel insurance to cover unexpected delays or trip interruptions. Travel insurance provides a safety net should something unexpected happen ahead of or during your trip. Travel insurance can cover expenses associated with flight cancellations, travel delays, lost luggage, and trip cancellation. Medical travel insurance can provide coverage for illness and injuries and that may not be included in your regular health insurance plan. Travel agents can also advise on what travel insurance policy makes the most sense for your trip.
- Get your car road-trip ready. Breakdowns are always a hassle, and you don’t want to be stranded during the Thanksgiving weekend. Find a trusted mechanic nearby at AAA.com/repair. Also be sure that your vehicle is ready for winter driving conditions. Get tips and advice, including what to put in your emergency kit, at AAA.com/winterprep.
AAA to the rescue
Before you head out, be sure your vehicle is ready for the trip to avoid a breakdown along the way. AAA expects to rescue more than 365,000 Americans including 7,000 Oregonians at the roadside this Thanksgiving. Dead batteries, flat tires and lockouts are the top three issues.
AAA makes it easy to request assistance – by phone (800-222-HELP) or the AAA app – and members can track the service technician’s progress as they make their way to your vehicle.
Before any long trip, AAA suggests getting an inspection to check key components such as the battery, fuel system, tires, brakes and fluid levels. Have your vehicle inspected by a trusted repair shop, such as one of the 7,000 AAA Approved Auto Repair facilities across North America.
Be prepared for emergencies with a mobile phone and car charger, and well-stocked emergency kit including a flashlight with extra batteries, first-aid kit, a basic toolkit, jackets and blankets, and drinking water and snacks for all passengers and pets. Share your itinerary with family or friends so that authorities know where to start looking for you if you don’t reach your destination.
Get tips and advice on how to plan for winter driving conditions at AAA.com/winterprep.
Holiday travel planning
“If you’re planning to travel for the year-end holidays, make your plans now if you haven’t done so already. Book your flights, accommodations, rental cars and activities as soon as possible. While it may be possible to find last-minute deals if you’re flexible on destinations and travel dates, availability will be very limited. Consider working with a travel agent to help you plan your trip and get the best value for your travel budget,” says Loofburrow.
In cooperation with AAA, S&P Global Market Intelligence developed a unique methodology to forecast actual domestic travel volumes. The economic variables used to forecast travel for the current holiday are leveraged from S&P Global Market Intelligence’s proprietary databases. These data include macroeconomic drivers such as employment, output, household net worth, asset prices including stock indices, interest rates, housing market indicators, and variables related to travel and tourism including gasoline prices, airline travel, and hotel stays. AAA and S&P Global Market Intelligence have quantified holiday travel volumes going back to 2000.
Historical travel volume estimates come from DK SHIFFLET’s TRAVEL PERFORMANCE/MonitorSM. The PERFORMANCE/MonitorSM is a comprehensive study measuring the travel behavior of U.S. residents. DK SHIFFLET contacts over 50,000 U.S. households each month to obtain detailed travel data, resulting in the unique ability to estimate visitor volume and spending, identify trends, and forecast U.S. travel behavior, all after the trips have been taken.
The travel forecast is reported in person-trips. In particular, AAA and SPGMI forecast the total U.S. holiday travel volume and expected mode of transportation. The travel forecast presented in this report was prepared the week of October 9, 2023.
AAA provides 64 million members with automotive, travel, insurance and financial services through its federation of 30 motor clubs and nearly 1,000 branch offices across North America. Since 1902, the not-for-profit, fully tax-paying AAA has been a leader and advocate for safe mobility. Drivers can request roadside assistance, identify nearby gas prices, locate discounts, book a hotel or map a route via the AAA Mobile app. To join, visit AAA.com.
Find current fuel prices at GasPrices.AAA.com.
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Fuel prices are updated daily at AAA’s Daily Fuel Gauge at AAA Gas Prices. For more info go www.AAA.com. AAA Oregon/Idaho provides more than 890,000 members with travel, insurance, financial and automotive-related services, and is an affiliate of AAA National, serving 64 million members in North America.