PHOENIX — Nearly the same number of Americans are expected to travel over the Thanksgiving holiday this year compared to 2019, according to the American Automobile Association (AAA) of Arizona.
The organization projects a total of 53.4 million people will hit the road for the holiday, a 13% increase from the 47.1 million Americans who traveled in 2020 amid the pandemic, which is the highest year-over-year increase since 2005.
A majority of travelers — about 90% — are expected to travel by vehicle, an 8% increase from 2020. More people are also expected to fly over the holiday — 4.2 million this year, compared to 2.3 million in 2020, an 80% increase.
Buses, trains, and cruises will also see more people compared to 2020, which was crushed last year because of the pandemic. In 2019, 1.5 million people traveled by those methods, compared to 281,000 in 2020, a significant drop.
The top destination for travelers will be Orlando, Florida, followed by Anaheim, California. Phoenix makes the top 5 list at No. 4, between Dallas, Texas (No. 3) and Honolulu, Hawaii (Nov. 5).
AAA also predicts that many of the largest metropolitan areas in the country will see significant volume over normal levels on Wednesday afternoon, the day before Thanksgiving.
An example, New York is expected to see a 482% increase in traffic between 2:30 p.m. and 4:30 p.m. on Wednesday. Detroit has the smallest increases listed with a 211% traffic surge between 2 p.m. and 4 p.m.
Americans planning to fly should note that AAA estimates that the average plane ticket has actually decreased by 27% since this time last year. The Tuesday and Wednesday prior to Thanksgiving, however, are expected to be the most expensive days to fly and the busiest at the airports.
The cost of AAA-approved hotel rooms has also increased about 39%, AAA said, with rates ranging from $137 to $172 a night. They caution that the car rental market may be unpredictable due to nationwide chip shortages amid the pandemic.
The AAA holiday travel report is released every year in partnership with a major transportation analytics company and uses a combination of proprietary data and travel-related demographic variables to produce the forecast.