Health & LivingNews

Thanksgiving Travel Projected to Increase

Nationally, AAA projects 55.4 million travelers will head 50 miles or more from home over the Thanksgiving holiday travel period*. This year’s Thanksgiving forecast is an increase of 2.3% over last year and marks the third-highest Thanksgiving forecast since AAA began tracking holiday travel in 2000. The top two years were 2005 and 2019, respectively.

AAA projects more than 4 million regional travelers, including Iowans will travel 50 miles or more during the Thanksgiving holiday travel period. This year’s forecast is the fourth highest on record (2005), with an expected 85,000 (2%) more holiday travelers than last year.

West North Central Region (WNC): IA, KS, MN, MO, ND, NE, SD

“Travel demand has been strong all year and that trend will continue with one of the busiest Thanksgivings on record,” said Debbie Haas, Vice President of Travel for AAA – The Auto Club Group. “With more people taking to the roads, skies, rails and sea; travelers should expect congested roads and longer lines at transportation terminals. AAA encourages travelers to develop their plan now, leave early, and be courteous to others.”


West North Central Thanksgiving Travel Forecast
  Total Auto Air Other
2023 (forecast) 4.33 million 3.86 million 231,000 237,000
2022 4.25 million 3.82 million 218,000 205,000
2021 4.25 million 3.88 million 209,000 157,000
2019 4.56 million 4.14 million 235,000 193,000


Auto Travel Still Shy of Pre-pandemic Numbers but Up From 2022

Most Thanksgiving travelers will drive to their destinations. AAA predicts nearly 3.86 million will take a road trip of 50 miles or more. That’s nearly 59,000 more drivers (+1.5%) than last year from our region. This year’s forecasted auto travel volume is 593,000 shy of the regional all-time high, set during the 2005 Thanksgiving holiday weekend.

Gas Prices Should Remain Lower Than Last Year

Thanksgiving road trips should be less costly at the gas pump this year. Despite global tensions causing ripples through the oil market, strong domestic gasoline supplies are causing pump prices to drop. Last Thanksgiving, the state average price for gasoline was $3.51 per gallon. Looking at today, the state average is $3.05. AAA believes gas prices should remain low through the holiday season unless oil prices suddenly spike. Visit to view updated gas price averages.

Air Travel Approaches Pre-Pandemic Highs

AAA expects nearly 231,000 to fly from the WNC region for Thanksgiving. That’s nearly 13,000 (5%) more than 2022, but still 4000 behind 2019.

Busiest Times to Fly

Tuesday and Wednesday before Thanksgiving are the busiest air travel days ahead of the holiday and the most expensive. While Sunday is typically the busiest day to return home, AAA data shows Monday is also a popular day to fly back after Thanksgiving.

Cruise, Bus, and Train Traffic Highest since 2003

The WNC regional number traveling by cruise, bus, and train over Thanksgiving is up 13% over last year. AAA expects 235,000 travelers to head out of town using these other modes of transportation, which suffered a severe setback during the pandemic, but have rebounded nicely.  In 2003, 252,000 individuals from the WNC region traveled by these modes.

“The cruise industry, in particular, has made a remarkable comeback, and thrives during the holidays,” Haas added. “Holiday cruises are highly sought-after as a means for large families to travel together and visit multiple destinations without having to worry about the cooking and cleanup. For those looking to plan a 2024 vacation, this is also a great time to connect with a Travel Advisor, who can navigate the many options available to find the best fit.”

Best/Worst Times to Drive

INRIX, a provider of transportation data and insights, expects WednesdayNovember 22, to be the busiest day on the roads during the Thanksgiving holiday travel period, with average travel times as high as 80% longer than normal in some metro areas. INRIX recommends leaving in the morning or after 6 p.m. to avoid the heaviest holiday congestion.

“The day before Thanksgiving is notoriously one of the most congested days on our roadways. Travelers should be prepared for long delays, especially in and around major metros,” said Bob Pishue, transportation analyst at INRIX. “Knowing when and where congestion will build can help minimize holiday traffic frustrations. We advise drivers to use traffic apps, local DOT notifications, and 511 services for real-time updates.”

Please note – the times listed below are for the time zone the metro is located in. For example, Atlanta routes = ET and Los Angeles routes = PT.

Overall Busiest Day to Drive



Compared to Typical

Wednesday, Nov 22

2:00 – 6:00 PM


Best and Worst Times to Drive


Worst Travel Time

Best Travel Time

Wednesday, Nov22

2:00 – 6:00 PM

Before 11:00 AM

Thursday, Nov 23

11:00 AM – 3:00 PM

Before 10:00 AM, After 5:00 PM

Friday, Nov 24

12:00 – 4:00 PM

Before 11:00 AM, After 7:00 PM

Saturday, Nov 25

3:00 – 5:00 PM

Before 12:00 PM

Sunday, Nov 26

3:00 – 5:00 PM

Before 12:00 PM


Holiday Booking Prices

This holiday season, travelers are generally paying less for domestic trips compared to last year and more for international vacations. The one exception is airfare, which is slightly more expensive for domestic flights this season and a bit lower for international flights. Here’s a breakdown of average booking prices for November and December, according to AAA data:


  • The average price for a domestic flight is $681, up 5% from 2022.
  • The average price for an international flight is $1,231, down 5.7% from last year.


  • The average price for a domestic hotel stay is $598, down 12% from 2022.
  • The average price for an international hotel stay is $772, up 5% from last year.


  • The average price for a domestic rental car reservation is $590, down 20% from 2022.
  • The average price for an international rental car reservation is $696, up 9% from last year.


  • The average price for a domestic cruise is $1,507, down 12% compared to 2022.
  • The average price for an international cruise is $2,902, up 24% from last year.


  • The average price for a domestic tour is $1,058, down 15% compared to 2022.
  • The average price for an international tour is $1,208, up 21% from last year.

AAA’s Road Trip Tips

  • Get a full vehicle inspection before setting out on your trip.
  • Leave early and allow extra time to get to your destination, so you are not in a rush.
  • Identify alternate routes in case you encounter congestion or road closures.
  • Avoid distractions while driving. Program your GPS before your drive.
  • Ensure everyone in the vehicle wears their seatbelt.
  • Never drive impaired.

AAA’s Air Travel Tips

  • Check-in early online.
  • Monitor your flight status using your air carrier’s mobile app.
  • Arrive 2-3 hours before scheduled departure.
  • Pack medications and an extra set of clothes in your carry-on bag, just in case your flight is delayed or cancelled.

Tips for Air Travelers who Have Not Booked their Flight Yet:

  • Book a flight that leaves early in the day. Flights in the afternoon and evening are more susceptible to delays and cancellations.
  • Book a direct flight. Otherwise, build in extra time between connections, in case your first flight is delayed.
  • Consider traveling on Thanksgiving Day. This could offer the best combination of availability and price.

“It’s not too late to purchase travel insurance, which can be extremely valuable for air travelers,” Haas said. “There are policies that can provide compensation for flight delays for as little as three hours. And if a flight is cancelled, passengers can receive compensation for covered out-of-pocket expenses.”

Top Holiday Destinations

Warm weather destinations, theme parks, tourist attractions, historic sites, and cruise port cities top the list of domestic and international destinations this holiday season.




Orlando, FL

Cancun, Mexico

Fort Lauderdale, FL

Mexico City, Mexico

Miami, FL

Punta Cana, Dominican Republic

Anaheim, CA


Tampa, FL

Rome, Italy

New York City, NY

Montego Bay, Jamaica

Las Vegas, NV

Nassau, Bahamas

Honolulu, HI

Bali, Papua New Guinea

Maui, HI

Paris, France

San Diego, CA

London, England


AAA Reminds Drivers to ‘Move Over for Me’

With more people sharing the roads, the danger is multiplied for those on the roadside. AAA reminds motorists to slow down and move over for first responders, tow trucks, and any motorist with a disabled vehicle on the side of the road.

“We want to make sure all holiday travelers, tow truck drivers and first responders make it home safely this Thanksgiving,” said Brian Ortner, spokesman, AAA – The Auto Club Group. “All drivers can help by moving over for flashing lights, whether it’s a tow truck or a disabled vehicle with its hazard lights on. Even if it adds a few minutes to your commute, that small gesture could save a life.”


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