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Traveling for Thanksgiving? Guide to Scheduling Your Road Trips Ahead

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By Dewey Olson - - 5 Mins Read
Family enjoying a Thanksgiving dinner
Featured | Shutterstock
If you're traveling for the holidays, some days should be out of your reader if you want to catch up!


The holiday season is approaching, and with it comes the rush of Thanksgiving travel plans. After a year of restrained travel due to the pandemic, 2022 saw a resurgence in travel enthusiasm, with many people eagerly resuming their vacation plans.


While the trend of revenge travel might be fading, the excitement for holiday travel remains unyielding. According to the Transportation Security Authority (TSA), a staggering 2.9 million individuals are estimated to be traveling on Sunday, November 26, setting a record for holiday travel.


AAA projects that approximately 55.4 million people will journey at least 50 miles from home for Thanksgiving, nearly a million more than the 2022 estimate of 54.6 million. This surge marks the third busiest Thanksgiving travel season since 2000, trailing only behind 2005 and 2019.

Anticipated Travel Trends and Modes

"For many Americans, Thanksgiving and travel go hand in hand, and this holiday, we expect more people on the roads, skies, and seas compared to 2022," remarked Paula Twidale, senior vice president of AAA Travel.


Many people wish to spend quality time with their loved ones, so they continue to travel. Even though the TSA has predicted around two million air travelers daily between Wednesday and Sunday of Thanksgiving week, most people will choose to travel by road.


AAA estimates that 49.1 million Americans will travel by car, reinforcing driving as the preferred mode of transportation for Thanksgiving.

Navigating the Peak Travel Periods

If you find yourself among the multitude planning a road trip, strategic planning could save you from the perils of holiday traffic. Both AAA and Google Maps offer crucial insights into the busiest travel times.


Rush hour road traffic congestion
Traffic congestion on busy road | Shutterstock


Based on Google Maps data from 20 major cities, starting your journey on Monday or Tuesday nights at 8 pm local time is recommended.


Conversely, the peak congestion periods are expected to be on Tuesday and Wednesday, particularly between 4 pm and 5 pm. On Thanksgiving Day, there will be high traffic between 1 pm and 4 pm, while the return journey on Saturday and Sunday will face peak congestion from 3 pm to 4 pm. To avoid traffic problems, leaving after 8 pm local time is advisable.

AAA’s Detailed Guidance for Travelers

AAA provides a comprehensive breakdown, offering specific information on the best travel times categorized by day, time, and metropolitan area.


Bob Pishue, a transportation analyst at INRIX, advised, "The day before Thanksgiving is notoriously one of the most congested days on our roadways. Knowing when and where congestion will build can help minimize holiday traffic frustrations." Utilizing traffic apps, local DOT notifications and 511 services for real-time updates can be immensely beneficial.

Optimizing Travel Strategies

Amidst the hustle of Thanksgiving travel, careful planning can significantly alleviate the stress of congestion. Wednesday, November 22, is predicted to be the busiest day on the road.


Consider hitting the road early in the morning or after 6 pm to circumvent heavy traffic, especially during the peak congestion hours of 2 pm to 6 pm. For the return trip, departing before 11 am or after 7 pm on Friday and before noon on Sunday is advised.

Air Travel Expectations and Trends

Flying during Thanksgiving is also expected to witness heightened activity, particularly on the days leading up to and following the holiday.


Tuesday and Wednesday before Thanksgiving and the Sunday afterwards are projected to be the busiest and costliest for air travel. Approximately 4.7 million individuals are anticipated to fly over Thanksgiving, marking a notable 6.6% increase from 2022.


With over 55 million Americans embarking on Thanksgiving journeys, meticulous planning is key to a smoother travel experience. Whether hitting the road or taking to the skies, understanding peak travel times and employing strategic departure strategies can alleviate the stress of holiday congestion. As major airlines brace for record-breaking travel numbers, embracing timely planning and leveraging available resources will ensure a more seamless and enjoyable Thanksgiving travel experience for everyone.