AAA: More Than 55 Million Americans to Travel This Thanksgiving, Orlando is No. 1 Destination

By  //  November 15, 2019

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Florida is home to four of the top 10 destinations

More than 55 million Americans plan to travel 50 miles or more this Thanksgiving. Nearly 2.9 million of those are Floridians. (AAA image)

BREVARD COUNTY, FLORIDA – More than 55 million Americans plan to travel 50 miles or more this Thanksgiving. Nearly 2.9 million of those are Floridians.

This will be the second-highest Thanksgiving travel volume since AAA began tracking in 2000; second only to 2005. Compared to last year, 1.6 million more Americans (85,258 Floridians) will travel for this year’s holiday.

The vast majority of holiday travelers will drive to their destinations.

Wednesday afternoon is forecast to be the worst travel period nationally, with trips taking as much at four times longer than normal in major metros.

“Strong economic fundamentals are motivating Americans to travel this Thanksgiving in near-record numbers,” said Mark Jenkins, spokesman, AAA – The Auto Club Group.

“Consumer spending remains strong, thanks to increased wages, disposable income, and household wealth. It also helps that gas prices have remained low during the past month, as Floridians finalized their travel plans.

By the numbers: 2019 Thanksgiving travel forecast

  • Automobiles:
    • U.S. – 49.3 million travelers will hit the road this Thanksgiving, the most since 2005 and 2.8% more than last year.
    • Florida – 2.6 million Floridians are forecast to drive, 3% more than last year. The second-most since 2005.
  • Planes:
    • U.S. – 4.45 million Americans expected to fly. With 4.6% growth, air travel will see the biggest increase in travel volume during the Thanksgiving holiday.
    • Florida – 210,456 Floridians are forecast to fly; 4.3% more than last year.
  • Trains, Buses and Cruise Ships:
    • U.S. – Travel by other modes will reach 1.49 million, a slight increase of 1.4% from 2018.
    • Florida – 52,629 Florida air passengers are an increase of 1-percent from last year.
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Wednesday is Busiest Travel Day

For the 49.3 million Americans traveling by automobile, INRIX, in collaboration with AAA, predicts major delays throughout the week, peaking Wednesday with trips taking as much four times longer than normal, as commuters mix with travelers.

“With record levels of travelers, and persistent population growth in the country’s major metropolitan areas, drivers must prepare for major delays,” said Trevor Reed, transportation analyst at INRIX.

“Although travel times will peak on Wednesday afternoon, drivers should expect much heavier than normal congestion throughout the week.”

“Florida drivers should expect the heaviest highway congestion on Wednesday, from 3 p.m. to 8 p.m.,” said Mark Jenkins, spokesman, AAA – The Auto Club Group.

“AAA recommends drivers plan ahead, identify alternate routes in case there are back-ups, and leave early. Driving on Thanksgiving Day may not be ideal, but there are much fewer people on the road.”

“Florida drivers should expect the heaviest highway congestion on Wednesday, from 3 p.m. to 8 p.m.,” said Mark Jenkins, spokesman, AAA – The Auto Club Group. “AAA recommends drivers plan ahead, identify alternate routes in case there are back-ups, and leave early. Driving on Thanksgiving Day may not be ideal, but there are much fewer people on the road.”

Lower gas prices fuel road trips

AAA expects gas prices to be fairly similar to last year’s Thanksgiving holiday, which averaged $2.45. Although prices at the pump have fluctuated as of late, they remain 16 cents per gallon less than the state average this time last year.

AAA to rescue more than 368,000

More than 368,000 motorists will call AAA for roadside assistance this Thanksgiving holiday – more than 25,000 of them in Florida. Dead batteries, flat tires and lockouts will be the leading reasons people call AAA for help.

Before hitting the holiday road, AAA recommends motorists take their vehicles to a trusted repair facility to perform any needed maintenance before heading out on a road trip.

And remember to slow down and move over for stopped emergency vehicles at the roadside.

Air Travel Tips: Fly Monday before Thanksgiving 

recent analysis of AAA’s flight booking data from the last three years revealed that flying the Monday before the Thanksgiving travel rush is the best option for travelers.

It has the lowest average ticket price ($486) prior to the holiday and is a lighter travel day than later in the week. Travelers can also save by traveling on Thanksgiving Day, which has the week’s lowest average price per ticket ($454).

Car rental costs peak, hotel prices mixed

Holiday road trippers should budget more for a rental car this year, which have reached their highest prices on record for the Thanksgiving holiday (since 1999), at $75 per day.

Travelers will also pay a bit more at AAA Two Diamond hotels, where prices are 1% more than last year, or $125 per night. Conversely, the average rate for AAA Three Diamond hotels has fallen 5% to an average nightly cost of $158.

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Warm weather beckons this Thanksgiving

The theme parks of Orlando and southern California and other warm-weather destinations will see an influx of travelers looking to escape the start of winter.

Florida is home to four of the top 10 destinations, and Hawaii twice graces the list of top destinations in the U.S. this Thanksgiving, based on advance AAA Travel bookings:

  1. Orlando, Florida
  2. Anaheim, California
  3. New York, New York
  4. Las Vegas, Nevada
  5. Honolulu, Hawaii
  6. Ft. Lauderdale, Florida
  7. Tampa, Florida
  8. Kahului, Maui, Hawaii
  9. Phoenix, Arizona
  10. Miami, Florida

For those travelers planning an international vacation for Thanksgiving, sandy beaches are their destinations of choice. Nassau, Bahamas; Cancun, Mexico; Punta Cana, Dominican Republic; and Montego Bay, Jamaica are AAA’s top international destinations this Thanksgiving, with Munich, Germany rounding out the top five.

AAA’s travel experts remind travelers that it’s not too late to begin planning a Thanksgiving getaway. Visit AAA.com/Travel for travel planning resources to book your trip today.

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