Thanksgiving travel will approach pre-pandemic levels

Travelers line up to pass through security screening at Love Field in Dallas on Nov. 27, 2019. (AP Photo/LM Otero, File)


The number of Americans traveling for the Thanksgiving holiday this year will likely approach pre-pandemic levels, according to AAA’s annual forecast.


What You Need To Know

  • The number of Americans traveling for the Thanksgiving holiday this year will likely approach pre-pandemic levels, according to AAA’s annual forecast
  • The auto group says 53.4 million people are expected to travel, up 13% from 2020; in 2019, 56 million people traveled for Thanksgiving
  • Despite sky-high fuel prices, more than 47.1 million people will travel by car, an increase of 8.5% from last year, the forecast says
  • AAA says travelers should brace for highway traffic and jam-packed airports and suggests people make their travel plans early, including booking flights, car rentals and hotels

The auto group says 53.4 million people are expected to travel, up 13% from 2020. In 2019, 56 million people traveled for Thanksgiving.

Despite sky-high fuel prices, more than 47.1 million people will travel by car, an increase of 8.5% from last year, the forecast says. According to AAA, the national average for a gallon of regular gas as of Tuesday was $3.42 — $1.31 more than it was a year ago.

The biggest jumps will be for air travel and other modes of transportation such as buses, trains and cruises, AAA said. Air travel is expected to climb by 82.6% from 2020, from 2.3 million to 4.2 million. Meanwhile, AAA predicts bus, train and cruise trips will increase by 256%, from 281,000 last year to 1 million.

Not only is a greater number of Americans more comfortable with traveling this year, the U.S. on Monday reopened its borders to fully vaccinated visitors from certain countries, adding to the totals. 

AAA says travelers should brace for highway traffic and jam-packed airports. It also suggests people make their travel plans early, including booking flights, car rentals and hotels. 

“This Thanksgiving, travel will look a lot different than last year,” said Paula Twidale, senior vice president at 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.”

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention still recommends that anyone who is not fully vaccinated for COVID-19 delay their travel. If unvaccinated people must travel, the CDC suggests avoiding crowds, getting tested before and after trips, and self-quarantining for seven days after returning home.



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