U.S. travel volumes up 13% this Thanksgiving, down 5% from 2019 levels

by Jeff Della Rosa ([email protected]) 411 views 

The number of Thanksgiving travelers is expected to rise by 13% to 53.4 million this holiday, from 2020, and that is projected to be the highest single-year increase since 2005, according to AAA. Despite gas costing more than $1 more per gallon than this time last year, 90% of people plan to travel by car.

In a Tuesday (Nov. 9) news release, AAA expects U.S. travel volumes to be down 5% from pre-pandemic levels in 2019. Still, the number of air travelers is expected to rise by 80% to 4.2 million this year, from 2020, as international travel restrictions are lifted. Air travel is projected to be down 9% from 2019 levels.

“This Thanksgiving, travel will look a lot different than last year,” said Paula Twidale, senior vice president for AAA Travel. “Now that the borders are open and new health and safety guidelines are in place, travel is once again high on the list for Americans who are ready to reunite with their loved ones for the holiday.

“International travel re-opening will allow people to reconnect with friends and family and explore new places, while also giving a much-needed boost to the economy,” Twidale added. “But it also means airports will be busier than we’ve seen, so travelers must plan for longer lines and extra time for TSA checks.”

According to recent guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), receiving a COVID-19 vaccine is the best way to minimize infection risk. According to Mayo Clinic, 58.9% of the U.S. population is fully vaccinated. In Arkansas, 48.4% of the population is fully vaccinated.

Following are other AAA findings for Thanksgiving travel this year, compared to last year:

  • The average lowest airfare is 27.3% less than last year at $132.
  • Mid-range hotel rates have risen by about 39%, with average nightly rates ranging between $137 and $172.
  • Daily car rental rates are up 4% at $98.

“Thanksgiving is one of the busiest holidays for road trips and this year will be no different even during the pandemic,” said Bob Pishue, transportation analyst for INRIX. “Drivers around major metros must be prepared for significant delays, especially Wednesday afternoon. Knowing when and where congestion will build can help drivers avoid the stress of sitting in traffic.”

INRIX, in collaboration with AAA, expects drivers will experience the worst congestion heading into the holiday weekend as commuters leave work early and mix with holiday travelers. Major metro areas across the United States could see more than double the delays compared to typical drive times, with drivers in Atlanta, Chicago, Houston, Los Angeles and New York likely to experience more than three times the delays.

According to AAA, the U.S. average price for a regular gallon of gas is $3.41, up from $2.11 at this time last year. The highest recorded average price for a regular gallon of gas was $4.11 in July 2008. In Arkansas, the average is $3.07 per gallon, up from $1.81 at the same time last year.