AAA Expects Thanksgiving Travel to Exceed Pre-pandemic Levels in Illinois and Indiana

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AAA predicts 54.6 million Americans will travel 50 miles or more from home this Thanksgiving.  While that national figure remains slightly below pre-pandemic levels, travel in Illinois and Indiana is forecast to be the busiest since 2005.

AAA forecasts more than 2.7 million Illinoisans and 1.2 million Hoosiers will travel 50 miles or more for Thanksgiving. That is 38,625 more Illinois travelers and 17,477 more Indiana travelers than last year’s holiday.

IllinoisTotal TravelAuto TravelAir TravelOther Modes
2022 Forecast2,791,1052,442,818272,61075,677
2021 Figures2,752,4802,442,207249,00161,273
2020 Figures2,389,4492,241,908133,20314,438
2019 Figures2,912,4652,583,327253,58475,554
IndianaTotal TravelAuto TravelAir TravelOther Modes
2022 Forecast1,270,5191,111,976124,09234,450
2021 Figures1,253,0421,111,793113,35527,894
2020 Figures1,068,5261,002,50459,5666,456
2019 Figures1,262,1621,119,912109,99932,251

National travel stats can be found here

“Travel is still roaring back from the pandemic,” said Debbie Haas, Vice President of Travel for AAA – The Auto Club Group. “While gas prices and other inflationary pressures weigh on budgets, travel remains a top priority for Americans, particularly during the holidays. Travel spending is at the highest level since the pandemic began, which is a driving force behind our projections this year. AAA expects busy roads and long lines at the airport, so leave early and be flexible with your travel plans.”

89% of Holiday Travelers will Drive

Despite higher gas prices, 89% of all Thanksgiving travelers will drive. AAA forecasts 48.65 million Americans will set out for a holiday road trip. That’s 203,000 more drivers than last year.

In Illinois, 2.4 million will take a road trip which is in line with 2021 numbers and the same in Indiana where 1.1 will travel by car.

Gas Prices to Test Record Highs for the Holiday

Pump prices in Illinois have been fluctuating over the course of the last few months and on Monday drivers paid an average price of $4.17 per gallon, 61 cents more than drivers paid last Thanksgiving ($3.56).

Hoosiers have also experienced fluctuation and on Monday drivers paid an average of $4.04 per gallon, a 75 cent increase from what they paid last Thanksgiving ($3.29)

“Higher gas prices don’t seem to be enough to stop people from traveling to be with family and friends,” said Molly Hart spokesperson for AAA – The Auto Club Group. “We’ve found that when gas prices are high, travelers look to offset the added cost by spending less on a hotel, shopping or dining out.”

Travelers can use the free AAA mobile app to compare gas prices, find certified repair shops, and member discounts in your area while traveling.

Busiest Days to Travel

If you are hitting the road for the holidays, leave early. Travelers should expect much heavier than normal congestion Monday-Wednesday afternoon and early evening. Traffic will be lighter during the morning and late evening hours and on Thanksgiving Day.

Date Worst travel time Best travel time 
11/23/22 11:00 AM – 8:00 PM Before 8:00 AM, After 8:00 PM 
11/24/22 11:00 AM – 3:00 PM Before 11:00 AM, After 6:00 PM 
11/25/22 4:00 PM – 8:00 PM Before 11:00 AM, After 8:00 PM 
11/26/22 4:00 PM – 8:00 PM Before 2:00 PM, After 8:00 PM 
11/27/22 4:00 PM – 8:00 PM Before 11:00 AM, After 8:00 PM 

AAA Expects to Rescue 411,000 stranded motorists

More than 411,000 drivers will need AAA roadside assistance during the holiday weekend. The most common reasons are for dead batteries, flat tires and lockouts. AAA encourages drivers to get a full vehicle inspection before they hit the road to check everything from the tires, oil, air filter and wiper blades. AAA has a list of certified mechanics at AAA.com/AutoRepair.

AAA Reminds Drivers to ‘Move Over for Me’

With more people sharing the roads, the danger is multiplied for those on the roadside. AAA reminds Illinois motorists it is a law to slow down and move over for first responders and tow trucks and people with disabled vehicles. While moving over for disabled vehicles is not a law in Indiana we ask that you extend the same courtesy for motorists stuck on the roadside.

“We want to make sure all holiday travelers, tow truck drivers and first responders make it home safely this Thanksgiving,” said Hart. “Please be courteous and move over for flashing lights, whether it’s a tow truck or a disabled vehicle with its hazard lights on.”

Click here to learn more about The Auto Club Group’s ‘Move Over for Me’ campaign

Air Travel Nears Pre-Pandemic Levels

In addition to congestion on the roads, Thanksgiving travelers are likely to find long lines at the airport too. Nationwide, air travel is up nearly 8% from last year, with 4.5 million Americans flying to their Thanksgiving destinations this year. That’s an increase of more than 330,000 air passengers and nearly 99% of the 2019 volume. 

It’s not uncommon for flight delays and even cancellations this time of year, due to winter weather, staffing challenges, and strong demand.

AAA offers the following tips for air travelers:

  • Check-in early online.
  • Monitor your flight status using your air carrier’s mobile app.
  • Arrive 2-3 hours before scheduled departure.
  • Pack medications and an extra set of clothes in your carry-on bag, just in case your flight is delayed or cancelled.

Tips for Air Travelers who Have Not Booked their Flight Yet:

  • Book a flight that leaves early in the day. Flights in the afternoon and evening are more susceptible to delays and cancellations.
  • Book a direct flight. Otherwise, build in extra time between connections, in case your first flight is delayed.
  • Consider traveling on Thanksgiving Day. This could offer the best combination of availability and price.

“It’s not too late to purchase travel insurance, which can be extremely valuable for air travelers,” Haas said. “There are policies that can provide compensation for flight delays for as little as three hours. And if your flight is cancelled, passengers can receive compensation for covered out-of-pocket expenses.”

Travel Prices are Higher than Last Year

  • Airfares cost 22% more than last year
    • The lowest round trip airfare costs $166 vs $135 in 2021
  • Hotels cost 17% more than 2021
    • A mid-range AAA Three Diamond property costs $218 per night vs $187 last year
  • Car Rentals cost 7% less
    • The average daily rate is $90 vs $98 last year

View the full Leisure Travel Index for a breakdown on pricing

Click here to view AAA’s Rental Car Dos and Don’ts

Most Popular Travel Destinations
Based on hotel bookings at AAA.com

  1. Orlando, FL
  2. Anaheim, CA
  3. Las Vegas, NV
  4. New York, NY
  5. Atlanta, GA
  6. Phoenix, AZ
  7. Dallas/Fort Worth, TX
  8. Denver, CO
  9. Chicago, IL
  10. Charlotte, NC

Thanksgiving Holiday Travel Period 

For purposes of this forecast, the Thanksgiving holiday travel period is defined as the five-day period from Wednesday, November 23 to Sunday, November 27. The Wednesday to Sunday period is consistent with previous years. 

Holiday Forecast Methodology

In cooperation with AAA, S&P Global Market Intelligence developed a unique methodology to forecast actual domestic travel volumes. The economic variables used to forecast travel for the current holiday are leveraged from S&P Global Market Intelligence’s proprietary databases. These data include macroeconomic drivers such as employment; output; household net worth; asset prices, including stock indices; interest rates; housing market indicators, and variables related to travel and tourism, including gasoline prices, airline travel, and hotel stays. AAA and S&P Global Market Intelligence have quantified holiday travel volumes going back to 2000.

Historical travel volume estimates come from DK SHIFFLET’s TRAVEL PERFORMANCE/Monitorsm. The PERFORMANCE/Monitorsm is a comprehensive study measuring the travel behavior of U.S. residents. DK SHIFFLET contacts over 50,000 U.S. households each month to obtain detailed travel data, resulting in the unique ability to estimate visitor volume and spending, identify trends and forecast U.S. travel behavior—all after the trips have been taken.  

The travel forecast is reported in person-trips. In particular, AAA and S&P Global Market Intelligence forecast the total U.S. holiday travel volume and expected mode of transportation. The travel forecast presented in this report was prepared the week of October 10, 2022.   

***Courtesy of The Auto Club Group***

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