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AAA: More Than 54 Million Americans to Travel this Thanksgiving, the Most Since 2005

Inrix Predicts Seattle Area Travel Times To Be Two Times Longer During The Holiday Week

BELLEVUE, Wash. — AAA projects 54.3 million Americans will journey 50 miles or more away from home this Thanksgiving, a 4.8 percent increase compared to last year. The 2018 holiday weekend will see the highest Thanksgiving travel volume in more than a dozen years (since 2005), with 2.5 million more people taking to the nation’s roads, skies, rails and waterways compared with last year. For the 48.5 million Americans planning a Thanksgiving road trip, INRIX, a global mobility analytics company, predicts travel times in the most congested cities in the U.S. could be as much as four times longer than a normal trip.

“Consumers have a lot to be thankful for this holiday season: higher wages, more disposable income and rising levels of household wealth,” said Jennifer Cook, Senior Manager of Corporate Communications. “This is translating into more travelers kicking off the holiday season with a Thanksgiving getaway, building on a positive year for the travel industry.”

The Thanksgiving holiday period is defined as Wednesday, November 21 to Sunday, November 25.

By the Numbers: 2018 Thanksgiving Holiday Travel Forecast

  • Automobiles: The vast majority of travelers – 48.5 million – will hit the road this Thanksgiving, nearly 5 percent more than last year.
  • Planes: The largest growth in holiday travel is by air, increasing by 5.4 percent, with 4.27 million travelers.
  • Trains, Buses and Cruise Ships: Travel across these sectors will increase by 1.4 percent, with a total 1.48 million passengers.

Drivers Beware: Thanksgiving’s Terrible Traffic

Based on historical and recent travel trends, INRIX, in collaboration with AAA, predicts drivers will experience the greatest amount of congestion Thanksgiving week during the early evening commute period, with travel times starting to increase on Monday. Drivers in San Francisco, New York City and Boston will see the largest delays – nearly quadruple normal drive times.

In most cases, the best days to travel will be on Thanksgiving Day, Friday or Saturday. Drivers should expect increased travel times on Sunday as most holiday travelers will be making their way home after the long weekend. In Seattle, travel times are predicted to double on Tuesday from 4-6 p.m., making that the worst time to leave for your holiday.

Worst Times to Hit the Road in America’s Largest Cities

Metro AreaWorst Day for TravelWorst Time for TravelWorst HotspotDelay Multiplier
HoustonMonday2:00 – 4:00 PMTX-8 Beltway E, TX249 to I692.75
BostonTuesday4:00 – 6:00 PMI-495 S, exit 41 to 333.5x
SeattleTuesday4:00 – 6:00 PMI-5 S, exit 178 to 1492x
AtlantaTuesday5:00 – 7:00 PMI-75 N, exit 216 to 2272.75x
Washington, D.C.Tuesday5:00 – 7:00 PMCapital Beltway Clockwise2.5x
DetroitTuesday5:30 – 7:30 PMUS-23 N, exit 35 to 492.5x
New YorkTuesday6:00 – 8:00 PMI-95 W, exit 7 to Hamilton Bridge3.5x
San FranciscoWednesday1:00 – 3:00 PMI-680 N, exit 8 to 214x
ChicagoWednesday2:30 – 4:30 PMI-94 W, exit 40A to 12x
Los AngelesWednesday2:30 – 4:30 PMI-5 S, exit 79 to 54B2x
Source: INRIX

Peak travel times to get to SeaTac Intn’l Airport will be Wednesday from 8-10 p.m. Across the country, travelers who take to the sky must account for long security lines, but also increased drive times to the airport. INRIX expects delays getting to the nation’s busiest airports could be as long as an hour and a half.

Worst Travel Times to America’s Busiest Airports

Metro AreaAirport RouteWorst Time for TravelTravel Time at Peak
DallasDowntown to DFW via TX-183 WMonday,
5:00 – 7:00 PM
30 min
San FranciscoDowntown to SFO via US-101 SMonday,
5:00 – 7:00 PM
24 min
DenverDowntown to DIA via I-70 E and Pena BlvdMonday,
5:30 – 7:30 PM
55 min
New YorkDowntown to JFK via Long IslandExpressway EastTuesday,
5:30 – 7:30 PM
1 hr 19 min
Los AngelesDowntown to LAX via I-110 STuesday,
7:00 – 9:00 PM
58 min
AtlantaDowntown to ALT via I-75 STuesday,
7:00 – 9:00 PM
34 min
CharlotteDowntown to CLT via US-74 WTuesday,
8:00 – 10:00 PM
21 min
Las VegasDowntown to LAS via I-15 SWednesday,
8:00 – 9:00 AM
27 min
ChicagoDowntown to ORD via Kennedy Expressway WestWednesday,
1:30 – 3:30 PM
1 hr 37 min
SeattleDowntown to SEA via I-5 SWednesday,
8:00 – 10:00 PM
41 min
Source: INRIX

Higher Gas Prices Not Keeping Holiday Travelers Home

Motorists can expect to pay the highest Thanksgiving gas prices in four years, with a national average of $2.79 as of November 1, 31-cents more than a year ago. In Washington state, the average price just hit $3.50 per gallon on Tuesday, up more than 50 cents compared to last year. In Idaho, the state average is $3.11 per gallon, up 45 cents. Around the Northwest, the state average is $3.33 in Oregon, $2.97 in Montana, and $3.75 in California. For daily local gas prices go to or use AAA’s App.

Best Times to Fly and Book Thanksgiving Flights

An analysis of AAA’s flight booking data from the last three years revealed that the Tuesday and Wednesday prior to Thanksgiving are usually the most popular air travel days and have the highest average price per roundtrip ticket. Meanwhile, Thanksgiving Day consistently has the lowest average price per ticket and is the lightest travel day. Travelers looking to save money this holiday season can fly the morning of the holiday and arrive just in time for Thanksgiving dinner.

Day3-Year Average Ticket PriceExpected Crowds
Monday (November 19, 2018)$465Moderate
Tuesday (November 20, 2018)$509Heavy
Wednesday (November 21, 2018)$507Heavy
Thursday (November 22, 2018)$446Light

Most travelers booked their flights for Thanksgiving between September 23 and October 25, paying an average ticket price of $478 roundtrip. Procrastinating travelers who still need to book their flights may find cheaper airfares, paying an average ticket price of $459 between now and November 15. However, last-minute flight availability will likely be very limited.

Car Rental Costs Fall, Hotel Prices Mixed

Travelers can expect to save on car rentals this Thanksgiving holiday season. At $63, the average daily rate is 10 percent less than last year, according to AAA’s Leisure Travel Index. Travelers can also save on AAA Three Diamond hotels, with an average nightly rate of $166, a decline of six percent compared to last year. Conversely, the average rate for AAA Two Diamond hotels has increased six percent with an average nightly cost of $124.

Top 10 Thanksgiving Destinations

Orlando, New York City and Anaheim top this year’s top 10 holiday destinations based on AAA’s online and travel agency air and tour bookings. Punta Cana, Dallas/Fort Worth and Miami are all gaining popularity as holiday spots compared with last year.

  1. Orlando, Florida
  2. New York, New York
  3. Anaheim, California
  4. Punta Cana, Dominican Republic
  5. Las Vegas, Nevada
  6. Cancun, Mexico
  7. Dallas/Fort Worth, Texas
  8. Honolulu, Hawaii
  9. Washington, DC
  10. Miami, Florida

AAA to Rescue More Than 6,000 Motorists Locally

AAA expects to help nearly 360,000 motorists at the roadside this Thanksgiving, with more than 6,000 of those rescues happening in Washington and northern Idaho. Dead batteries, lockouts and flat tires will be the leading reasons AAA members will experience car trouble. AAA recommends motorists take their vehicle to a trusted repair facility to perform any needed maintenance before heading out. Oil changes, fluid level checks, battery tests and tire inspections go a long way toward reducing the chances of a breakdown.

About INRIX:

INRIX is the global leader in connected car services and transportation analytics. Leveraging big data and the cloud, INRIX delivers comprehensive services and solutions to help move people, cities and businesses forward. Our partners are automakers, governments, mobile operators, developers, advertisers, as well as enterprises large and small. Learn more at

About AAA Washington:

AAA Washington was established in 1904 by 10 prominent Seattleites determined to champion the betterment of motoring conditions and laws, the preservation of Washington state’s natural beauty and the promotion of Washington as an unrivaled tourist destination. Nearly 120 years later, the club continues to pursue these on behalf of its 1.2 million members. 

Members of AAA Washington receive exclusive benefits, including roadside assistance, discounts on hotels and rental cars, comprehensive insurance options, and personalized trip planning. AAA Washington was named a Best Place to Work by Puget Sound Business Journal and voted the best Travel/Tourism Company by 425 Business readers in 2023, and AAA was named one of the most trusted travel and automotive brands in the U.S. Additional information is available through the company’s Washington and northern Idaho stores and at 

About AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety:

Established in 1947 by AAA, the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety is a nonprofit, publicly funded, 501(c)(3) charitable research and educational organization. The AAA Foundation’s mission is to prevent traffic deaths and injuries by conducting research into their causes and by educating the public about strategies to prevent crashes and reduce injuries when they do occur. This research is used to develop educational materials for drivers, pedestrians, bicyclists and other road users. Visit

Media Contact

Fearey o/b/o AAA Washington 

Twitter: @AAA_Washington
Facebook: AAA Washington
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Interested in planning your next road trip with AAA Washington? Call your travel agent directly or your nearest AAA store to get pro tips, TripTik maps, and more. Find more Pacific Northwest scenic drives and road trips.

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