Thanksgiving Travel: Best and Worst Times to Hit the Road
Millions of us will get behind the wheel or head to the airport to spend Thanksgiving with loved ones this year. According to a new report from AAA, about 55.4 million travelers will travel 50 miles or more from home over the Thanksgiving holiday travel period (defined as the five-day period from November 22nd – the day before Thanksgiving to November 26th, the Sunday after the holiday). This year’s forecast is up 2.3% over last year. That makes it the third busiest Thanksgiving for travel since AAA started tracking holiday travel in 2000. The two busiest years for holiday travel were 2005 and 2019.
Busier than ever
Of all the folks traveling for Thanksgiving, a vast majority will be on the road. AAA expects less than 5 million Americans flying over the holiday, which is the highest number of air travelers since 2005. If you are going to Grandma’s by plane, plan accordingly. The busiest days for air travel, and the most expensive, are the Tuesday and Wednesday before the holiday and Sunday is the busiest day to fly home.
If you will be one of the nearly 50 million pilgrims on the road, here are the best and worst times to be on the road for the Thanksgiving Holiday.
Wednesday before Thanksgiving:
- This is, by far, the busiest day to travel. If you have to shove off on Wednesday, AAA suggests you leave before 11 am. The busiest time to be on the road is between 2 pm and 6 pm on Wednesday.
- Not everyone will be on the road on Wednesday. Thanksgiving traffic will be heaviest between 11 am and 3 pm. AAA suggests, if you plan to hit the road on Thanksgiving Day, you can avoid the traffic if you ride before 10 am or after 5 pm. The good news about leaving that late is that you will get to your destination in time for leftovers. Check out these easy & creative leftover ideas!
- On Friday, travel before 11 am or after 7 pm if possible. The roads will be busiest between noon and 4 pm.
- If you head home over the weekend, you will not be alone. Many people will be hitting the road to return home on Saturday and Sunday between 3 and 5 pm, so AAA recommends leaving before noon on both days.
If you are headed out, plan ahead and pack your patience. Everybody is going to see someone who would be sad if they didn’t make it. So, keep your hand off the horn and send up a prayer for a safe and happy holiday season.