AAA issues busy Thanksgiving travel forecast

AURORA, Ill. (November 16, 2017) – AAA projects 50.9 million Americans will journey 50 miles or more away from home this Thanksgiving, a 3.3 percent increase over last year. The 2017 holiday weekend will see the highest Thanksgiving travel volume since 2005 with 1.6 million more people taking to the nation’s roads, skies, rails and waterways compared with last year AAA and INRIX, a global transportation analytics company, predict travel times in the most congested cities in the U.S. during the holiday week could be as much as three times longer than the optimal trip. The Thanksgiving holiday travel period is defined as Wednesday, Nov. 22 to Sunday, Nov. 26.

In Indiana, 1.1 million people are expected to travel, which is up 3.4 percent from 2016. Of those travelers, over one million are expected to travel by auto (3.2 percent increase) and about 89,000 by air (5.9 percent increase). In Indiana, gas prices are on average $2.70 per gallon, up from $2.43 a month ago and up considerably from $1.95 this time last year. The average price nationally for gas is $2.56.

“Thanksgiving kicks off the start of what will likely become the busiest holiday season in more than a decade,” said Vicky Evans, Assistant Vice President, Travel Sales Development, AAA – The Auto Club Group. “A strong economy and labor market are generating rising incomes and higher consumer confidence. These factors should help fuel consumer spending and generate a strong finish for the travel industry this year.”

By the Numbers: 2017 Thanksgiving Travel Forecast

  • Road trip ready: 89 percent of all travelers –45.5 million– are planning a Thanksgiving road trip, an increase of 3.2 percent over last year.
  • Cheaper airfare: Consumers will pay the cheapest average airfare since 2013.
  • Fuller skies: The largest growth in holiday travel is by air travel, at 5 percent, with 3.95 million travelers.
  • Alternate travel: Travel by trains and other modes (including buses and cruises) is expected to increase 1.1 percent to 1.48 million travelers.
  • Fueling up: Drivers will pay the highest Thanksgiving gas prices since 2015.
  • Holiday high: Car rental daily rates will hit a five-year holiday high at $70/day due to an increase in domestic demand and cost of newer vehicles

Lockouts, flat tires to strand 330,000 motorists this Thanksgiving
AAA expects to rescue more than 330,000 motorists this Thanksgiving weekend, with the primary reasons being lockouts, flat tires and battery-related issues. AAA recommends motorists have their vehicles inspected by a trusted repair shop, such as one of the more than 7,000 AAA Approved Auto Repair facilities across North America. Members can download the AAA Mobile app, visit or call 1-800-AAA-HELP to request roadside assistance.

Travelers Beware and Advised: Traffic Hotspots and Best and Worst Times to Hit the Road
Based on historical and recent travel trends for the holiday week, INRIX, in collaboration with AAA, predicts drivers will experience the greatest amount of congestion during the early evening – as early as Tuesday of Thanksgiving week – as commuters mix with holiday travelers. At its peak, drivers on Chicago’s interstates, for example, could see a delay of nearly 300 percent over the optimal trip.

Highs and Lows: Car rentals, airfare and hotel rates
According to AAA’s Leisure Travel Index, travelers taking to the skies will pay the lowest average in five years for a round-trip flight for the top 40 domestic routes. At $157, on average, that is a 23 percent fare drop year-over-year.

Travelers can expect to spend any ‘flight savings’ on car rentals. At $70/day, the daily car rental average is 34 percent more than last year and the highest rate for Thanksgiving weekend since 2013. The increase in rates may be attributed to an increase in domestic demand and cost of newer vehicles in the fleets with added features and benefits.

Travelers will pay more for AAA Three Diamond Rated hotels this holiday weekend. The average price increased by 14 percent to $176/night. Conversely, the average rate for a AAA Two Diamond Rated hotel has decreased 5 percent with an average nightly cost of $117.

Top Ten Thanksgiving Destinations
Many travelers will seek theme-park and warm-weather destinations this Thanksgiving. Both Orlando, Florida, and Anaheim, California, top this year’s top 10 holiday destinations based on bookings. Compared to previous years, New York City, Las Vegas and San Francisco are gaining popularity as holiday hot spots.

  1. Orlando, Florida
  2. Anaheim, California
  3. New York City, New York
  4. Honolulu, Hawaii
  5. Las Vegas, Nevada
  6. Punta Cana, Dominican Republic
  7. Cancun, Mexico
  8. San Francisco, California
  9. Kahului, Maui, Hawaii
  10. Fort Lauderdale, Florida

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