More Americans Hitting Road for Thanksgiving, Despite Record High Holiday Gas Prices

GasBuddy, AAA predict busy travel season as pandemic precautions fade
gasbuddy thanksgiving gas prices
Image coutesy of GasBuddy

BOSTON and WASHINGTON — Ahead of Thanksgiving, average gasoline prices will be at their highest seasonal level ever for the weekend, according to GasBuddy. The fuel-price app projects the national average to be $3.68 per gallon on Thanksgiving Day—nearly 30 cents higher than last year and more than 20 cents higher than the previous record of $3.44 set in 2012. But 20% more Americans are planning to hit the road this year.

GasBuddy said the number of Americans traveling over the holiday will increase from 31% last year to 38% this year, a 20% rise, but 62% of Americans are not planning on traveling for Thanksgiving, with 21% choosing not to drive because of high fuel prices.

“It has been a dizzying year … from the roller coaster ride at the pump with record gasoline prices earlier this year, which have fallen significantly since mid-summer,” said Patrick De Haan, head of petroleum analysis at GasBuddy. But most Americans “aren’t deterred from taking to the highways to observe Thanksgiving … especially as precautions from the pandemic have eased,” he said.

Separately, motor club AAA predicts that 54.6 million people will travel 50 miles or more from home this Thanksgiving holiday, a 1.5% increase over 2021 and 98% of pre-pandemic volumes. This year will be the third busiest for Thanksgiving travel since Washington-based AAA started tracking in 2000, it projects. It expects nearly 49 million people to travel by car. While Thanksgiving road trips have slightly risen—up 0.4% from 2021—car travel remains 2.5% below 2019 levels.

Travelers can expect Wednesday between 11 a.m. and 2 p.m. and Friday between 8 a.m. and 11 a.m. to be the busiest on the nation’s highways, said GasBuddy.

Twenty-three percent of respondents to GasBuddy’s Thanksgiving survey say they will spend one to three hours in the car, compared to 2021, when most indicated they would travel less than an hour away. While 21% say high fuel prices are affecting their travel, surprisingly fewer are citing high gas prices this year (46% vs. 51% in 2021) for affecting their travel plans. Seventy-three percent of Americans traveling won’t be crossing state lines, said GasBuddy, which cautioned motorists about differences in state and local taxes.

Boston-based GasBuddy analyzed 1,314 responses to its 2022 Thanksgiving Travel Survey from Nov. 5 to Nov. 9, 2022. Acquired by Alpharetta, Ga.-based PDI Technologies in 2021, GasBuddy provides real-time gas price information from more than 150,000 gas stations.

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