Thanksgiving Travel Rebounds to Near Pre-Pandemic Levels
Marisa Lloyd

Thanksgiving Travel Rebounds to Near Pre-Pandemic Levels


BOISE  – AAA projects 53.4 million Americans (16.2% of the population) will travel for the Thanksgiving holiday, up 13% from 2020. This brings travel within 5% of pre-pandemic levels in 2019, and this is the highest single-year increase in Thanksgiving travel since 2005. 

While 90% of travelers will drive to their Thanksgiving destinations, air travel is seeing a huge bump this year, up 80% compared to 2020. With 6.4 million more people traveling this Thanksgiving, along with the recent opening of U.S. borders to fully vaccinated international travelers, people should expect busy roads and airports. The Thanksgiving holiday travel period is defined as Wednesday, November 24 through Sunday, November 28.

“Travel is again high on the list for Americans who’re looking forward to spending time with family and friends this Thanksgiving. But it means travelers should plan for roads and airports to be noticeably more crowded than what we experienced during the pandemic. Pack your patience and expect delays,” says Marie Dodds, public affairs director for AAA Oregon/Idaho.

“Thanksgiving travel looks much different this year. Whether you go by car or plane, it’s important to know how to navigate the new travel landscape to avoid unnecessary stress and challenges during your trip,” says Doreen Loofburrow, senior vice president of travel for AAA Oregon/Idaho. “The travel industry is impacted by the same staffing challenges as other industries, as well as limited flight capacity. Still, it’s possible to have a fun and unforgettable trip!”

Most will travel by car

AAA projects 90.3% of travelers (48.3 million Americans) will drive to their Thanksgiving destination. This is an 8.4% increase from 2020.

While automobile travel will increase this year, it will remain lower than 2019 when 49.9 million Americans drove; however, will exceed the volume of travelers seen as recently as 2018 when 48 million drove to their Thanksgiving destinations.

Thanksgiving air travel will increase by 80% this year, recovering almost completely from its dramatic fall in 2020. AAA expects 4.2 million, will fly, an increase of 1.86 million from last year and the highest single-year increase on record.

Even with the jump in air travel this year, AAA finds that the lowest average lowest airfare is 27.3% less than last year coming in at $132.


Gas Prices Significantly Higher than Last Year

Those who decide to hit the road for Thanksgiving will find gas prices at least a dollar per gallon more expensive than last year. The national average is at its most expensive for the holiday since 2012, while the Oregon average has never been this high for the holiday.

“High gas prices aren’t keeping people home. Those who need to trim expenses will do so in other ways such as limiting dining out and looking for more budget-friendly choices in accommodations and other activities,” says Dodds.


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