AAA projects highest Thanksgiving travel volume since 2005

Tony Markovich

Holidays are never good times to travel because they are times when everybody travels. Each year, AAA releases estimates of just how congested the roads and airways will get for Thanksgiving weekend, one of the worst travel periods of the year, and this year projects to be one of the worst in recent memory. AAA says 2019 Thanksgiving travel volume could increase by up to 2.9 percent compared to 2018. 

Based on economic forecasting and research from London-based company IHS Markit, the AAA report believes up to 55 million people could travel 50 miles or farther on or between Wednesday, Nov. 27 through Sunday, Dec. 1. If those numbers are correct, it would be the second-highest travel volume since AAA started recording the stat in 2000. The only higher recorded volume came in 2005.

Breaking those numbers down, automobile road trips account for 49.3 million people. Roughly 4.45 million Americans are expected to travel by plane, and another 1.49 are expected to travel by trains, buses, or cruise ships. Thanksgiving weekend travel volume has seen a steady increase during the past few years, and the trend should continue this year thanks to a strong economy and affordable gas prices.

Of the major metro areas, San Francisco, Houston, Boston, New York, Los Angeles, and Atlanta are the most congested traffic areas during the holiday weekend and all have delay multipliers of 3.0 or higher during the worst time to drive: between 2 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. the Wednesday before Thanksgiving. Atlanta, L.A. and NYC are the worst with 3.5-time delay multipliers.

Read more transportation and holiday travel stats at AAA.