AAA Predicts More of Us Will Be On The Road This Thanksgiving

AAA advises motorists to get an early start on Thursday and prepare for lots of traffic.

Aerial view of traffic jam
(Image credit: Getty Images)

If you’re one of the more than 55 million people planning to drive this Thanksgiving, you might want to consider getting an early start. 

A new report from AAA forecasts a 2.3% increase in holiday travelers this year compared to last, and the third-highest amount of travelers since it began forecasting travel trends in 2000.

Most of those travelers, a whopping 49.1 million, will get behind the wheel to get to their destinations, with another 4.69 million traveling by air and 1.55 million by other means. The busiest travel day is slated for the day before the holiday, November 22, with the busiest driving hours happening between 2 pm and 6 pm.

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Mass travel mixed with inclement weather means you should plan ahead even more so this year. The latest Thanksgiving travel news regarding weather predicts a cross-country storm that will bring rainy conditions and potential snowstorms to the roads. 

Those hoping to avoid some of the most intense traffic are advised to leave before 11 am on Wednesday. If you’re planning travel on Thanksgiving day itself, AAA recommends leaving before 10 am and returning home after 5 pm.

It’s not only the roads that will be busy. In cities like New York, peak subway congestion is expected to be up 64%, while in Los Angeles it is forecast to increase by a whopping 88%.

Global travel has rebounded

An uptick in travel on the whole is contributing to the higher levels of traffic on the roads and on public transportation. A June 2023 report found that global travel had completely rebounded following the massive slowdown during the peak of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The report also lines up with previous reporting, which cites factors such as inflation as contributing to a change from more air travel to more auto travel. Some 75% of travelers plan to modify their travel plans or go somewhere closer to home.  

Gas prices could similarly be impacting the decision to get behind the wheel this year. Prices are the lowest they’ve been since February, according to a recent survey by GasBuddy

“Drivers will be saving over half a billion dollars from Wednesday through Sunday compared to what they spent last Thanksgiving with the national average at its lowest since January,” Patrick De Haan, head of petroleum analysis for GasBuddy, said in a statement. 

However, De Haan said, the price drop in the national average does not mean that every gas station will quickly lower prices. Motorists, he added, "should remember to check their phone for the lowest prices before filling up."


Jamie Feldman

Jamie Feldman is a journalist, essayist and content creator. After building a byline as a lifestyle editor for HuffPost, her articles and editorials have since appeared in Cosmopolitan, Betches, Nylon, Bustle, Parade, and Well+Good. Her journey out of credit card debt, which she chronicles on TikTok, has amassed a loyal social media following. Her story has been featured in Fortune, Business Insider and on The Today Show, NBC Nightly News, CBS News, and NPR. She is currently producing a podcast on the same topic and living in Brooklyn, New York.