According to automotive and travel club AAA, the volume of travel around Thanksgiving season is anticipated to be close to 98% of pre-pandemic levels.
This Thanksgiving is anticipated to be the third biggest since AAA began keeping track of travel traffic in 2000, with 54.6 million people likely to travel throughout the holiday period — a 1.5% increase from 2021. (The number reached its peak in 2005 and peaked again just before the epidemic in 2019).
Despite the fact that inflation decreased by more than anticipated in October, to 7.7%, Americans still have negative perceptions of the economy. However, according to AAA, this doesn’t seem to be having an impact on travel demand.
“Given the inflation and rising petrol prices, it seems illogical. But with travel restrictions being abolished and the increased demand for travel due to how divided and secluded we were during the first two years of the pandemic, “Aixa Diaz, a representative for AAA, informed CNN by email.
Gas prices are high, with the national average per gallon on Monday being $3.77, but they are down from a month ago and much below the top of $5 per gallon in mid-June.
According to Diaz, Americans are budgeting for travel and are more at ease using public transportation once more, including buses and trains.
They are making other lifestyle changes, such as eating at less expensive restaurants or shopping less, as well as altering their daily driving patterns to condense errands in order to save gas, according to Diaz.
The number of Americans expected to travel by air is expected to increase by nearly 8% by 2021. The 4.5 million Americans flying over the holiday period, which runs from Wednesday, November 23, to Sunday, November 27, accounts for nearly 99% of the total volume in 2019.
“Airport parking spaces fill up quickly, so plan ahead of time and arrive early,” said Paula Twidale, AAA’s senior vice president of travel. “Expect long TSA lines. If possible, avoid checking a bag to give yourself more options if your flight is delayed or you need to reschedule.”
And, while everything seems to be getting more expensive these days, according to Scott Keyes, founder of Scott’s Cheap Flights, airfare is actually leveling off.
Airfares “bottomed out” for about two years between March 2020 and March 2022, according to Keyes. Then, in the spring, it “really zoomed up.”
“It’s kind of fallen back down to Earth since then, and now, if you squint, it looks essentially normal, like it did before the pandemic,” Keyes said.
That doesn’t mean it isn’t more expensive than last year. “Even after adjusting for inflation, air fare today is 34% higher than it was a year ago,” Keyes said.
With demand as high as it is this holiday season, many air travelers are bracing for disruptions after a summer of cancellations and delays.
Airlines have “gone above and beyond” to prepare, according to Nick Calio, president and CEO of industry group Airlines for America, in an interview with CNN’s Pete Muntean.
“They’ve adjusted their schedules, they’ve been on hiring binges, putting people in the right places at the right time,” he said.
Calio’s main concern?
“I’m worried about the weather. I always worry about the weather because that’s the number one thing that can ruin a flight or a flight pattern, but again I think we’re flexible enough now that if there are cancellations or delays we will be ready to try to get people to where they want to go.”
The majority of visitors will drive.
Most travelers will drive to their destinations, as has been customary in the past. Nearly 49 million people are expected to travel by car this year. This is 2.5% lower than in 2019, but 0.4% higher than in 2018. The AAA forecast considers trips that are 50 miles or more from home.
Highways are expected to be congested, especially in major metropolitan areas. INRIX, a mobility insight firm, recommends leaving early on Wednesday or before 11 a.m. on Thanksgiving Day to avoid the busiest times leading up to the holiday weekend. Also, avoid the hours of 4 p.m. to 8 p.m. on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday.
Other modes of transportation are also approaching pre-pandemic levels.
During the Thanksgiving travel season, more than 1.4 million people are expected to travel by bus, train, or cruise ship, accounting for 96% of the total volume in 2019.