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Nearly 51 Million Americans to Travel This Thanksgiving, Highest Volume in a Dozen Years

Seattle Makes the Top 10 List For Worst Holiday Traffic

AAA projects 50.9 million Americans will journey 50 miles or more away from home this Thanksgiving, a 3.3 percent increase compared to last year. The 2017 holiday weekend will see the highest Thanksgiving travel volume since 2005 with 1.6 million more people taking to the nation’s roads, skies, rails and waterways compared with last year. AAA and INRIX, a global transportation analytics company, predict travel times in the most congested cities in the U.S. during the holiday week could be as much as three times longer than the optimal trip.

“Thanksgiving kicks off the start of a busy holiday season, and more thankful Americans will travel to spend time with friends and family this year,” said Jennifer Cook, AAA Washington Sr. Manager of Corporate Communications. “A strong economy and labor market are generating rising incomes and higher consumer confidence, fueling a strong year for the travel industry, which will continue into the holiday season.”

The Thanksgiving holiday travel period is defined as Wednesday, Nov. 22 to Sunday, Nov. 26.

By the Numbers: 2017 Thanksgiving Travel Forecast

  • Road trip ready: 89 percent of all travelers – 45.5 million – are planning a Thanksgiving road trip, an increase of 3.2 percent over last year.
  • Cheaper airfare: Consumers will pay the cheapest average airfare since 2013.
  • Fuller skies: The largest growth in holiday travel is by air travel, at five percent, with 3.95 million travelers.
  • Alternate travel: Travel by trains and other modes (including buses and cruises) is expected to increase 1.1 percent to 1.48 million travelers.
  • Fueling up: Drivers will pay the highest Thanksgiving gas prices since 2014.
  • Holiday high: Car rental daily rates will hit a five-year holiday high at $70/day, which may be due to an increase in domestic demand and cost of newer vehicles.

Travelers hitting the road will experience higher gas prices

While AAA expects most U.S. drivers will pay the highest Thanksgiving gas prices since 2014, the vast majority of holiday travelers (89.3 percent) are still planning to hit the road. Automobile travel will grow by 3.2 percent this Thanksgiving, with 45.5 million Americans planning a holiday road trip. The national average is $2.56, which is 40 cents more than last year. In Washington state, the average price just hit $3 per gallon on Tuesday, up more than 30 cents compared to last year. In Idaho, the state average is $2.66 per gallon, up 22 cents. Around the Northwest, the state average is $2.87 in Oregon, $2.61 in Montana, and $3.23 in California. For daily local gas prices go to or use AAA’s App.

Seattle Makes the Top 10 List for Holiday Traffic: Traffic Hotspots and Best/Worst Times

Based on historical and recent travel trends for the holiday week, INRIX, in collaboration with AAA, predicts drivers will experience the greatest amount of congestion during the early evening – as early as Tuesday of Thanksgiving week – as commuters mix with holiday travelers. At its peak, drivers on Chicago’s interstates, for example, could see a delay of nearly 300 percent over the optimal trip.

“Thanksgiving has historically been one of the busiest holidays for road trips, and this year we could see record-level travel delays,” says Bob Pishue, transportation analyst at INRIX. “Knowing when and where congestion will build can help drivers avoid the stress of sitting in traffic.”

Worst Time to Travel

Metro AreaWorst Day for TravelWorst Time for TravelDelay Multiplier
Chicago, ILTuesday5:00 – 6:00 PM3x
San Francisco, CATuesday4:00 – 5:45 PM2.5X
Los Angeles, CATuesday3:15 – 6:00 PM2.5x
Boston, MATuesday5:15 – 7:15 PM2.5x
New York, NYTuesday5:30 – 6:30 PM2x
Washington, DCTuesday4:45 – 6:00 PM2x
Seattle, WATuesday3:45 – 5:30 PM2x
Atlanta, GAWednesday3:00 – 5:15 PM2x
Houston, TXWednesday5:45 – 7:00 PM1x
Detroit, MITuesday3:00 – 5:30 PM1x

The worst traffic hotspot during Thanksgiving week in each of the 10 most congested cities in the U.S. are:  

Top Traffic Hotspot in America’s Most Congested Cities

1Los Angeles, CAI-5 S at Valley View Ave
2New York, NYI-495 E at NY-106/NY-107
3San Francisco, CAI-80 E at Pinole Valley Rd
4Atlanta, GAI-75 N at Chastain Rd
5Miami, FLI-95 N at Congress Ave
6Washington, DCI-95 S at US-17/US-1
7Dallas, TXUS-75 S at I-45/I-3
8Boston, MAI-90 W at I-84/US-20
9Chicago, ILI-90 W at I-190
10Seattle, WAI-405 S at WA-167

Across the country, travelers that take to the sky must account for long security lines, but also increased drive times to the airport. AAA and INRIX expect delays getting to the nation’s busiest airports could be as long as an hour.  

Worst Travel Times to America’s Busiest Airports

Metro AreaAirport RouteWorst Time for TravelTravel Time at Peak
New York, NYDowntown to JFK via Long Island Expressway EastTuesday,
5:30 – 7:30 PM
1 hr 54 min
Chicago, ILDowntown to ORD via Kennedy Expressway WestTuesday,
4:30 – 5:30 PM
1 hr 14 min
Denver, CODowntown to DIA via I-70 E and Pena BlvdWednesday,
4:30 – 6:30 PM
52 min
Los Angeles, CADowntown to LAX via I-110 STuesday,
4:30 – 6:30 PM
46 min
Dallas, TXDowntown to DFW via TX-183 WWednesday,
8:00 – 9:00 AM
46 min
Las Vegas, NVDowntown to LAS via I-15 SWednesday,
8:00 – 9:00 AM
45 min
San Francisco, CADowntown to SFO via US-101 STuesday,
5:00 – 7:00 PM
29 min
Seattle, WADowntown to SEA via I-5 STuesday,
3:00 – 5:00 PM
29 min
Charlotte, NCDowntown to CLT via US-74 WWednesday,
1:00 – 3:00 PM
19 min
Atlanta, GADowntown to ALT via I-75 SWednesday,
5:00 – 7:00 PM
12 min

Highs and Lows: Car rentals, airfare and hotel rates

According to AAA, travelers taking to the skies will pay the lowest average in five years for a round-trip flight for the top 40 domestic routes. At $157, on average, that is a 23 percent fare drop year-over-year.

Travelers can expect to spend any ‘flight savings’ on car rentals. At $70/day, the daily car rental average is 34 percent more than last year and the highest rate for Thanksgiving weekend since 2013. The increase in rates may be attributed to an increase in domestic demand and cost of newer vehicles in the fleets with added features and benefits.

Travelers will pay more for AAA Three Diamond Rated hotels this holiday weekend. The average price increased by 14 percent to $176/night. Conversely, the average rate for AAA Two Diamond Rated hotels has decreased five percent with an average nightly cost of $117.

Top 10 Thanksgiving Destinations

Many travelers will seek theme-park and warm-weather destinations this Thanksgiving. Both Orlando, Florida, and Anaheim, California, top this year’s top 10 holiday destinations based on bookings. Compared to previous years, New York City, Las Vegas and San Francisco are gaining popularity as holiday spots.  

  1. Orlando, Florida
  2. Anaheim, California
  3. New York City, New York
  4. Honolulu, Hawaii
  5. Las Vegas, Nevada
  6. Punta Cana, Dominican Republic
  7. Cancun, Mexico
  8. San Francisco, California
  9. Kahului, Maui, Hawaii
  10. Fort Lauderdale, Florida

According to Hertz, the busiest airport pick-up locations for travelers planning to rent a car this Thanksgiving are expected to be Orlando (MCO), Los Angeles (LAX), Miami (MIA), Las Vegas (LAS) and Fort Lauderdale (FLL). The busiest day for rental pick-ups is expected to be Wednesday, Nov. 22, with an average rental length of nearly five full days, as travelers look to take advantage of the long holiday weekend.

Lockouts, flat tires to strand 330,000 motorists this Thanksgiving, 6,500 Locally

AAA expects to rescue more than 330,000 motorists this Thanksgiving weekend across the country, with 6,500 of those breakdowns happening in Washington and N. Idaho. The primary cause of these breakdowns being lockouts, flat tires and battery-related issues. AAA recommends motorists have their vehicles inspected by a trusted repair shop, such as one of the more than 7,000 AAA Approved Auto Repair facilities across North America before heading out for the holiday.

Download the AAA Mobile app before a Thanksgiving getaway

Before setting out for the long Thanksgiving weekend, download the free AAA Mobile app for iPhone, iPad and Android. Travelers can use the app to map a route, find the lowest gas prices, access exclusive member discounts, make travel arrangements, request AAA roadside assistance, find AAA Approved Auto Repair facilities and more. Learn more at

About the AAA Travel Forecast:

AAA’s projections are based on economic forecasting and research by IHS Markit. The London-based business information provider teamed with AAA in 2009 to jointly analyze travel trends during major holidays. AAA has been reporting on holiday travel trends for more than two decades. The complete AAA/IHS Markit 2017 Thanksgiving holiday travel forecast is available here.

As North America’s largest motoring and leisure travel organization, AAA provides nearly 58 million members with travel, insurance, financial and automotive-related services. Since its founding in 1902, the not-for-profit, fully tax-paying AAA has been a leader and advocate for the safety and security of all travelers. Motorists can map a route, identify gas prices, find discounts, book a hotel and access AAA roadside assistance with the AAA Mobile app for iPhone, iPad and Android. Learn more at AAA clubs can be visited on the Internet at

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.

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
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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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