AAA projects busy Thanksgiving for travelers

Travel is a top priority this Thanksgiving for many Americans, as a growing number are expected to kick off the holiday season with a road trip or air travel. AAA estimates nearly 2.3 million Ohioans will travel — 3% more than the previous year.

More than 2 million Ohioans are expected to travel by car, nearly 195,000 by plane and another 58,000 will travel by other means, including rail. This will be the second-highest Thanksgiving travel volume since AAA began tracking in 2000, trailing only the record-setting 58.6 million traveling in 2005. The Thanksgiving holiday travel period is defined as Wednesday, Nov. 27 to Sunday, Dec. 1.

INRIX, a global transportation analytics company, expects the three days leading up to Thanksgiving—Nov. 25-27—to be the worst times to travel due to congested roadways. The worst travel day is expected to be Wednesday, Nov. 27, with trips taking as much as four times longer than normal in major metros.

Nationally, more than 55 million Americans are expected to travel 50 miles or more away from home this Thanksgiving. An additional 1.6 million more will travel compared to last year, a 2.9 percent increase.

By the numbers

Automobiles: 49.3 million travelers will hit the road this Thanksgiving, the most since 2005 and 2.8 percent more than last year.

Planes: With 4.6 percent 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 percent from 2018.

Economic incentives

spark holiday travel

Gas prices have been fluctuating as of late, but are currently cheaper than the national average at this time last year. The savings are giving Americans a little extra money to spend on travel and motivating millions to take road trips. For the majority of motorists, AAA expects gas prices to be fairly similar to last year’s Thanksgiving holiday, which averaged $2.57.

“Consumers have a lot to be thankful for this holiday season: higher wages, more disposable income and rising levels of household wealth,” said Kara Hitchens, AAA spokesperson. “This is translating into more travelers kicking off the holiday season with a Thanksgiving getaway.”

While travelers will find lower gas prices, 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 percent more than last year, or $125 per night. Conversely, the average rate for AAA Three Diamond hotels has fallen 5 percent to an average nightly cost of $158.

Risky behavior

With so many taking to the roadways, AAA reminds motorists to avoid distractions, never drive impaired and slow down and move over for roadside emergency vehicles.

Distracted driving kills an average of nine people and injures 1,000 each day, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). It is the third leading driver-related cause of crash fatalities behind speeding and driving under the influence. These numbers likely underestimate the problem because most drivers involved in a crash do not admit to driving distracted.

The combination of holiday celebrations and increased numbers hitting the roadways can result in a deadly combination during the holidays. AAA reminds motorists never to drive impaired and arrange for a safe ride before celebrating with alcoholic beverages. During the Thanksgiving holiday in 2018, there were 175 OVI-related crashes in Ohio with two fatalities.