As Thanksgiving approaches, 54.6 million Americans will travel more than 50 miles from home, according to the American Automobile Association. That’s a 1.5% increase from 2021, enough to make this Thanksgiving trip the third-largest this year since AAA began tracking such things in 2000.
“Family and friends look forward to spending time together on this Thanksgiving holiday, one of the busiest times of travel in the last two decades,” said Paula Twidale, AAA’s senior vice president of travel. “Plan ahead and pack your patience whether you’re driving or flying.”
Much like 2021, most travelers will head across the river and through the forest.
According to the AAA, approximately 49 million of us are expected to take the wheel to reach family and friends. Despite a 0.4% increase from 2021 in Thanksgiving trips by car, it’s still 2.5% below 2019 levels. And a report from Cars.com says that while 46% of respondents prefer to fly, they do Holiday freaks go on Thanksgiving because of the high airfare. And another 20% would rather fly but drive so they don’t have to worry about flight delays. In fact, according to Cars.com, 80% of travelers intend to drive to their destination themselves, as 92% have recently experienced plane delays.
When are you traveling?
And it appears that 41% already left for their Thanksgiving destination last weekend, although 28% plan to travel on Thanksgiving, the next busiest travel day. While a third of holiday travelers head home on Thanksgiving, 21% intend to return the following Sunday.
Although there will be a tiny peak of late-night travelers over Thanksgiving, most drivers depart in the morning before noon, with the South and mid-Atlantic having the most travelers.
According to the AAA, the busiest travel time is Wednesday from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m., Thursday from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m., and Friday to Sunday from 4 p.m. to 8 p.m.
“Regardless of what mode of transport you choose, expect crowds throughout your journey and at your destination,” Twidale said. “If your schedule is flexible, consider off-peak travel times during the holiday rush.”
AAA is forecasting heavier-than-normal traffic for Atlanta residents Wednesday, not just on I-85, but also on I-75 and I-285.
Similarly, Boston drivers can expect headaches on I-93, I-90, and MA3 during the same period. In Chicago, expect I-94, I-294, I-290 to be bad midweek, while Detroit drivers can expect congestion along I-75, I-94, I-96, and I-696 .
In Houston, it may be best to avoid I-10, I-45, I-69, and I-610. In Los Angeles, which always seems to have slow traffic, it’s best to avoid I-10 and 405. North of LA, in San Francisco, US 101 North along with I-80, I-580, and I-680 expect stronger ones Traffic than normal while in New York’s Belt Parkway, I-278 and I-495 are expected to become problematic on Wednesday.
Heavy traffic is expected on I-5 and I-495 in Seattle on Wednesday, while in Washington, DC, I-95 and I-270 are expected to be slow on Wednesday.
Prepare for your journey
But how well you plan your road trip can mean the difference between a trip you’ll never forget and one you’ll regret.
Check your vehicle’s wipers, wiper blades, air conditioning, heater battery, tires, belts, and brakes before driving. Be sure to check the air pressure in your tires. The correct air pressure is listed on the driver’s side front door of modern cars, trucks and SUVs. Also, if your car has a spare tire, make sure it is serviceable and properly inflated.
While you’re at it, check the tread on all four tires. Take a penny and repeatedly place it upside down in the tread of the tire. If you can see the top of Abraham Lincoln’s head, change the tire. Also examine the condition of the tread. If both edges of a tire are worn, the tire is under-inflated. If the tread is worn down in the middle, it is over-inflated.
Also, have someone stand outside the vehicle to make sure your vehicle’s headlights, brake lights, turn signals, and fog lights are all working.
Since you will be spending a lot of time in your car, you should clean both the inside and outside before you leave. Also make sure you have a first aid kit, jumper cables and road flares in an emergency road kit as you can never expect the unexpected.
Once you’re sure your car is ready, bring some entertainment with you. You will no doubt bring your phone and/or tablet. But remember to also pack CDs, DVDs, an MP3 player and audio books.
If you have children, bring their favorite toys and books and prepare a gift bag to encourage good behavior. Bring pillows and blankets for naps if you want some peace and quiet.
While it may seem obvious, don’t forget your driver’s license, vehicle registration, and auto and health insurance cards. So that someone can find you in an emergency, make sure someone who stays at home has a copy of your itinerary.
When packing your car, place heavier items as close to the center of the car as possible for the best weight distribution and handling. Remember that you may need to access the spare tire. So load the car with the assumption that you may have to unpack it at some point. Also, consider the combined weight of your passengers and luggage, as vehicles can be unsafe to drive when overloaded. Your car, truck, or SUV’s owner’s manual has information on the maximum load capacity.
Finally, you might want to carry an extra set of car keys with you – just in case you need them.