This year, approximately 55.4 million Americans are planning to travel during the Thanksgiving holiday, making it the third-busiest Thanksgiving since 2000, according to AAA’s holiday travel forecast.
Increased Demand for Travel
Paula Twidale, senior vice president of AAA Travel, expressed that Thanksgiving and travel are traditionally intertwined for many Americans. She commented that the strong demand for travel seen throughout 2023 is expected to continue during this holiday season.
However, these anticipated crowds of travelers may face some complications if Congress fails to avoid a federal government shutdown on November 18, right before the holiday weekend.
In this scenario, federal employees such as air traffic controllers and Transportation Security Administration (TSA) employees would be required to work without pay during one of the busiest travel periods of the year.
Comparisons to Pre-Pandemic Levels
While the total number of travelers this year is not expected to surpass pre-pandemic levels, the forecast shows a slight increase from last year. Approximately 2.3% more Americans are planning to travel between Wednesday, November 22, and Sunday, November 26.
In 2019, nearly 56 million Americans hit the road for Thanksgiving.
Preferred Mode of Travel
The majority of travelers are expected to reach their destinations by car, with around 49.1 million individuals planning to travel via car during the holiday weekend. Drivers should anticipate the highest volume of traffic on Wednesday, November 22, between 2 and 6 p.m.
Approximately 4.7 million people are planning to fly during Thanksgiving week, making it the busiest Thanksgiving for air travel in 18 years.
Consumer Spending Outlook
Consumers have been showing mixed signals regarding their spending intentions for food, gifts, and travel during this holiday season. An earlier Bankrate survey revealed that more than three-quarters of Americans were planning to modify their holiday travel plans in order to reduce costs. This includes staying home or opting for road trips instead of flights.