WASHINGTON – It's that time of year again. Thanksgiving is here, and soon millions of Americans will be hitting the roads, catching a flight or riding the rails to enjoy time with friends and family as 2022 slowly winds down.
And after a few years of isolation due to the COVID-19 pandemic, more and more people are opting to skip solo dinners and gather with the ones we love to give thanks.
In fact, AAA estimates 54.6 million people will travel 50 miles or more this Thanksgiving, and that's a 1.5% increase over 2021 and 98% more than pre-pandemic volumes. In addition, AAA says this year is expected to be the third busiest for Thanksgiving travel since the organization started keeping track of those numbers in 2000.
"Families and friends are eager to spend time together this Thanksgiving, one of the busiest for travel in the past two decades," Paula Twidale, AAA's Senior Vice President of Travel, said in a news release. "Plan ahead and pack your patience, whether you're driving or flying."
Like last year, AAA says most travelers (nearly 49 million Americans) will drive to their destinations. But while Thanksgiving car travel has risen slowly, only up 0.4% from 2021, car travel is still 2.5% below 2019 levels.
Thanksgiving air travel takes off
Are you hoping to catch a flight to see friends and family for Thanksgiving this year? Expect crowded airports and packed airplanes.
AAA says air travel is up nearly 8% from last year, with at least 4.5 million people flying to Thanksgiving destinations this year.
That's an increase of more than 330,000 travelers and up nearly 99% from 2019 – before the pandemic.
"Airport parking spaces fill up fast, so reserve a spot ahead of time and arrive early," Twidale said in the news release. "Anticipate long TSA lines. If possible, avoid checking a bag to allow for more flexibility if flights are delayed or you need to reschedule."
More Thanksgiving travelers choosing other modes of transportation this year
While most people heading out of town will do so by driving or flying, there are other modes of transportation that more Americans are choosing when getting away for Thanksgiving.
AAA says more than 1.4 million people will choose to travel via bus, train or even cruise ship, and that's an increase of 23% over last year and a whopping 96% from the 2019 levels.
"With travel restrictions lifted and more people comfortable taking public transportation again, it's no surprise buses, trains, and cruises are coming back in a big way," Twidale said in the news release. "Regardless of the mode of transportation you have chosen, expect crowds during your trip and at your destination. If your schedule is flexible, consider off-peak travel times during the holiday rush."