Bellevue, Wash. (Nov. 14, 2019) – More than 55 million U.S. travelers, nearly 1.3 million Washingtonians, are making plans to kick off the holiday season with a trip of 50 miles or more from home this Thanksgiving. This will be the second-highest Thanksgiving travel volume since AAA began tracking in 2000, trailing only the record set in 2005. Overall, an additional 1.6 million more people will travel compared to last year, a 2.9% increase. The vast majority of holiday travelers will drive to their destinations. INRIX, a global transportation analytics company, expects Wednesday afternoon to be the worst travel period nationwide, with trips in major metro areas taking as much at four times longer than normal.
“Strong economic fundamentals are motivating Americans to venture out this holiday in near-record numbers,” said Kelly Just, AAA Washington’s public relations manager. “Consumer spending remains strong, thanks to increasing wages, disposable income and household wealth, and travel remains one of their top priorities for the holiday season.”
By the numbers: 2019 Thanksgiving travel forecast
· Automobiles: 49.3 million travelers will hit the road this Thanksgiving, the most since 2005 and 2.8% more than last year.
· Planes: With 4.6% growth, air travel will see the biggest increase in travel volume during the Thanksgiving holiday, with 4.45 million Americans expected to fly.
· Trains, Buses and Cruise Ships: Travel by other modes will reach 1.49 million, a slight increase of 1.4% from 2018.
Holiday traffic peaks on Wednesday:
Once again, Seattle is among the country’s ten worst metro areas for traffic. Drivers heading south from Bellevue on I-405 will face the biggest slowdowns, with travel times nearly three-and-a-half times longer than normal, closely followed by I-405 north from Bellevue (2.7X Longer), I-5 south from Seattle (1.8X longer) and I-5 north from Seattle (1.7X longer).
Worst Time Wednesday, Nov. 27
2.4x Source: Inrix
Lower gas prices fuel road trips; AAA to rescue more than 368,000
Gas prices have been fluctuating as of late, but are currently trending a dime cheaper than this time last year. The current Washington state average for regular gasoline is $3.40 gallon, $3.30 in Oregon, $3.00 in Idaho and $2.71 in Montana. Gas prices in Washington are down six cents compared to last year, and up a nickel in the past month.
During the Thanksgiving holiday, AAA expects more than 368,000 motorists will call for roadside assistance across the nation, with 5,300 in Washington. Dead batteries, flat tires and lockouts will be among the leading reasons AAA members will experience car trouble. AAA recommends any drivers heading over the passes for the holiday or Apple Cup pack a winter driving kit that includes: cell phone and charger for making emergency calls, warning devices (flares, triangles), jumper cables, snow brush, ice scraper, abrasive material (kitty litter), tire chains, first aid kit, flashlight with new batteries, non-perishable food, water, blankets, gloves, hat and extra warm clothing.
Car rental costs peak, hotel prices mixed
Holiday road trippers should budget more for a rental car this year, which have reached their highest prices on record for the Thanksgiving holiday (since 1999), at $75 per day. Travelers will also pay a bit more at AAA Two Diamond hotels, where prices are 1% more than last year, or $125 per night. Conversely, the average rate for AAA Three Diamond hotels has fallen 5% to an average nightly cost of $158.
Travel tip for the friendly skies: Fly Monday before Thanksgiving
A recent analysis of AAA’s flight booking data from the last three years revealed that flying the Monday before the Thanksgiving travel rush is the best option for travelers. It has the lowest average ticket price ($486) prior to the holiday and is a lighter travel day than later in the week. Travelers can also save by traveling on Thanksgiving Day, which has the week’s lowest average price per ticket ($454).
Warm weather beckons this Thanksgiving
The theme parks of Orlando and southern California, as well as Hawaii will see an influx of travelers looking to escape the start of winter. Other popular destinations include: New York, Las Vegas, Honolulu, and Phoenix.
For those planning an international Thanksgiving, sandy beaches are the destinations of choice. Nassau, Bahamas; Cancun, Mexico; Punta Cana, Dominican Republic; and Montego Bay, Jamaica are AAA’s top international destinations this Thanksgiving. Munich, Germany rounds out the top five.
AAA’s travel experts remind travelers that it’s not too late to begin planning a Thanksgiving getaway. Visit AAA.com/Travel for travel planning resources to book your trip today.