ORLANDO, Fla. -- This Thanksgiving holiday will see the highest level of automobile travel since 2005, according to AAA.
Travel by car will rise 4.9% for Thanksgiving 2018 vs. a year ago to reach 48.5 million travelers, or 2.3 million more than in 2017. This is despite the fact that gasoline prices are significantly higher than they were at the same time last year. The national retail average for gasoline hit $2.79 on Nov. 1, 31 cents per gallon higher than a year ago.
“Motorists have become accustomed to this year’s more expensive gas prices and won’t let higher fuel costs deter them from taking Thanksgiving road trips,” said Jeanette Casselano, gas price expert for AAA, Orlando, Fla.
AAA defines the 2018 Thanksgiving holiday as Wednesday, Nov. 21, to Sunday, Nov. 25.
While the vast majority of travelers will drive to their destination this Thanksgiving holiday, other forms of transportation are also seeing increases in travelers from last year. The number of air travelers is expected to increase 5.4% compared to 2017, while the number of travelers taking other modes of transportation such as trains and buses is projected to grow 1.4%.
With the higher number of travelers, traffic congestion and travel times are expected to increase, beginning Nov. 19, according to INRIX, a provider of connected car services and transportation analytics, which worked with AAA on its Thanksgiving forecast. The heaviest congestion will be during the early evening commute, INRIX expects, with travel times nearly quadrupling in San Francisco, New York and Boston.
AAA credits strong, broad-based economic growth for the higher travel numbers, citing the expected decrease in the unemployment rate in the fourth quarter to 3.7% and the projected 3.1% year-over-year increase in real gross domestic product. It also pointed to higher levels of consumers spending and increasing wages, disposable income and household wealth.