AAA projects 50.9 million Americans (15.6 percent of the population) will journey 50 miles or more away from home this Thanksgiving, a 3.3 percent increase over last year. The 2017 holiday weekend will see the highest Thanksgiving travel volume since 2005 with 1.6 million more people taking to the nation’s roads, skies, rails and waterways compared with last year. About 647,000 Oregonians will head over the river and through the woods. The Thanksgiving holiday travel period is defined as Wednesday, November 22 through Sunday, November 26.
“The most Americans in a dozen years will travel to enjoy turkey and all the trimmings with loved ones; in fact this is the ninth consecutive year of growth in the number of Thanksgiving travelers,” says AAA Oregon/Idaho Public Affairs Director Marie Dodds. “The vast majority will drive, although all modes of travel—car, air cruises, trains and buses—are showing increases compared to last year. Air travel is seeing the largest bump with growth at five percent over 2016.”
Pacific Region also sees boost
In the Pacific region (Washington, Oregon, California, Alaska and Hawaii), 8.5 million travelers (15.8 percent of the population) are expected to travel for the holiday weekend, an increase of 3.7 percent compared to last year. About 647,000 Oregonians will travel.
A strong economy and labor market are generating rising incomes and higher consumer confidence, fueling a strong year for the travel industry, which will continue into the holiday season.
The majority of travelers plan to leave the day before Thanksgiving and return the following Sunday. Nearly a quarter of all travelers typically return on Monday, Nov. 27 or later.
INRIX, in collaboration with AAA, predicts drivers will experience the greatest amount of congestion during the afternoon and early evening—as early as Tuesday of Thanksgiving week—as commuters mix with holiday travelers. At its peak, drivers on some interstates and highways could see delays of nearly 300 percent over the optimal trip.
The most congested times are expected to be Tuesday afternoon/evening from 3:15 to 6 p.m. and Wednesday from 3 to 7 p.m. “You can avoid the biggest traffic bottlenecks if you can travel outside of these times,” says Dodds. “Still, plan on lots of company whenever you go. Give yourself extra time to make it to your destination.”
Most will travel by car despite higher gas prices
More than 89 percent of travelers (45.5 million people or 14 percent of the population) plan to drive to their Thanksgiving destinations. This is a 3.2 percent increase compared to last year.
In the Pacific region, 86 percent of all travelers (7.3 million travelers or 13.6 percent of the population) will go by car, an increase of 3.6 percent compared to 2016. In Oregon, roughly 556,600 will drive.
“Car travel is again the most popular way to travel for Thanksgiving and this year will see the most travelers on the road since 2005,” adds Dodds.
Highest Thanksgiving gas prices in three years
AAA says gas prices are about 40 cents a gallon more than a year ago and are the most expensive for Thanksgiving since 2014.
The current national average is $2.56 per gallon and the Oregon average is $2.87.
“Higher gas prices usually don’t have a dramatic impact on Thanksgiving travel as people want to keep their plans to spend time with friends and family. Those who need to cut expenses will do so in other ways without canceling their trips,” says Dodds.
Air travel sees biggest growth; airfares down 23 percent
The largest growth in holiday travel is by air travel which is expected to increase by five percent nationally, with 3.95 million Americans (7.8 percent of holiday travelers or 1.2 percent of the population) flying to their holiday destinations. This is the highest volume seen for the holiday since 2007, and the highest share since 2010. It’s also the sixth consecutive year of growth in Thanksgiving air travel.
In the Pacific Region, 923,000 people (10.9 percent of holiday travelers or 1.7 percent of the population) will fly to their holiday destination. This is an increase of 5.4 percent compared to 2016. The Pacific region is geographically more spread out and typically sees a higher than average share of its population fly and this is the case for this Thanksgiving.
Those taking to the skies will pay the lowest average in five years for a round-trip flight for the top 40 domestic routes. At $157, on average, that is a 23 percent fare drop year-over-year according to AAA’s Leisure Travel Index.
“Rising incomes build more confident consumers who are more likely to spend money on air travel, which tends to be a more expensive mode of travel,” says Dodds.
Those flying should arrive at the airport at least two hours before domestic flights and three hours before international flights. Visit TSA.gov for the latest info on getting through security.
Travel by other modes of transportation, including cruises, trains and buses, will increase 1.1 percent this Thanksgiving to 1.48 million travelers.
Hotel rates up or down, depending on the property; car rental rates jump
According to AAA’s Leisure Travel Index, rates for AAA Three Diamond Rated lodgings are expected to increase 14 percent to an average of $176 per night up from $155 a year ago. The average rate for a AAA Two Diamond Rated hotel has fallen five percent with an average nightly cost of $117 down from $123 last year.
Daily car rental rates are up significantly, averaging $70 up from $52 last year, a jump of 34 percent. This is the highest rate for Thanksgiving since 2013. The increase may be attributed to an increase in demand and the cost of newer vehicles in the fleets with added features and benefits.
Top Thanksgiving destinations:
This year’s top destinations for Thanksgiving based on bookings at AAA Oregon/Idaho include many popular West Coast and Hawaiian cities, as well as perennial family-friendly favorites:
Las Vegas, Nevada
San Francisco, California
San Diego, California
New York City, New York