“Busiest holiday season:” Over 50 million Americans expected to travel this Thanksgiving

MCLEAN, VIRGINIA - NOVEMBER 23: Traffic converges on highway I-495 South just west of the nation's capital on one of the busiest travel days of the year November 23, 2011 in McLean, Virginia. The American Automobile Association projects that 42.5 million people are likely to drive, fly, or take the train to their Thanksgiving gatherings, the largest number since the beginning of the recession. (Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images)

MILWAUKEE — AAA projects 50.9 million Americans will travel 50 miles or more away from home this Thanksgiving; a 3.3 percent increase over last year.

According to a press released from AAA, the 2017 holiday weekend will see the most Thanksgiving travelers since 2005, with 1.6 million more people taking to the nation’s roads, skies, rails and waterways compared with last year.

“Thanksgiving kicks off the start of what will likely become the busiest holiday season in more than a decade,” said Vicky Evans, Assistant Vice President, Travel Sales Development, AAA – The Auto Club Group. “A strong economy and labor market are generating rising incomes and higher consumer confidence. These factors should help fuel consumer spending and generate a strong finish for the travel industry this year.”

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

CLICK HERE to read the full report

Below is a breakdown of travel numbers from AAA:

Wisconsin Forecast:

  • Total Travelers: Approximately 1,056,000 Wisconsinites will travel 50 miles or more; an increase of nearly 35,000 people (3.4%) over last year.
  • Road Trip Ready: Over 945,000 will take a Thanksgiving road trip; an increase of almost 30,000 people (3.3%).
  • Flying High: Over 82,000 Wisconsinites are forecast to take a flight.  That is a 6% increase over last year and the highest number on record for the state.
  • Alternate Travel: Almost 29,000 will travel by other means like trains, buses, and cruises. The 1.2 percent increase represents 335 more travelers than last year, and the most since 2008.
  • Fueling Up: Gas prices in Wisconsin averaged $2.03 heading into the Thanksgiving travel period in 2016. Prices this year are likely to be the highest since 2014, but should be lower than what motorists were paying earlier this month.

National Forecast:

  • Road Trippers: 89 percent of all travelers –45.5 million– are planning a Thanksgiving road trip; an increase of 1.6 million people (3.2%) over last year.
  • Cheaper Airfare: Consumers will pay the cheapest average airfare since 2013. View the pricing index
  • Fuller Skies: The largest growth in holiday travel is by air travel, at 5 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 2015.
  • Holiday High: Car rental daily rates will hit a five-year holiday high at $70/day due to an increase in domestic demand and cost of newer vehicles.

Travelers still hitting the road despite higher gas prices

“AAA forecasts drivers will pay the highest Thanksgiving gas prices since 2014, thanks to strong demand and high oil prices,” said Nick Jarmusz, spokesman, AAA- The Auto Club Group. “Although it will be more expensive to drive compared to recent years, the current price is not high enough to be a deterrent for travelers.

Motorists should see some relief at the pump before the holiday. Oil prices have begun retreat from 2-year highs, which should allow gas prices to start drifting lower by the time people set out for their destination.

Highs and Lows: Car Rentals, Hotel Rates, and Airfares

According to AAA’s Leisure Travel Index:

  • 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.

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 a AAA Two Diamond Rated hotel has decreased 5 percent with an average nightly cost of $117.