With Thanksgiving approaching, 54.6 million Americans will travel more than 50 miles from home, according to the American Automobile Association. That’s a 1.5% rise from 2021 enough to make this Thanksgiving travel the third busiest this year since AAA began keeping track of such things in 2000.
“Families and friends are eager to spend time together this Thanksgiving, one of the busiest for travel in the past two decades,” said Paula Twidale, AAA’s senior vice president of Travel. “Plan ahead and pack your patience, whether you’re driving or flying.”
Not unlike 2021, most travelers will be driving over the river and through the woods.
It is anticipated that approximately 49 million of us will get behind the wheel to reach family and friends, according to AAA. Despite a 0.4% increase from 2021 in Thanksgiving travel by car, it’s still 2.5% behind 2019 levels. And a report from Cars.com states while 46% of those surveyed prefer to fly, these holiday revelers are driving on Thanksgiving due to the high cost of flights. And, another 20% would rather fly but are driving so they don’t have to deal with flight delays. In fact, according to Cars.com, 80% of travelers intend to drive themselves to their destination, as 92% have recently experienced aircraft delays.
When are they traveling?
And it seems 41% have 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 will head home on Thanksgiving Day, 21% intend to return the following Sunday.
Although there will be a tiny peak of late-day travelers on Thanksgiving Day, most drivers depart in the morning, before noon, with the South and Mid-Atlantic having the most travelers.
According to AAA, on Wednesday, the busiest travel time will be from 11 a.m. though 8 p.m., on Thursday from 11 a.m. though 3 p.m., and Friday through Sun from 4 p.m. through 8 p.m. each day.
Travel choke points
“Regardless of the mode of transportation you have chosen, expect crowds during your trip and at your destination,” said Twidale. “If your schedule is flexible, consider off-peak travel times during the holiday rush.”
AAA predicts heavier-than-normal traffic for Atlanta residents not only on I-85, but also on I-75 and I-285 on Wednesday.
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 mid-week, while Detroit drivers can expect jammed conditions along I-75, I-94, I-96 and I-696.
In Houston, it might be best to avoid I-10, I-45, I-69, and I-610. In Los Angeles, which always seems to have slow traffic, the I-10 and the 405 are best avoided. North of L.A., in San Francisco, U.S. 101 North, along with I-80, I-580 and I-680 are expecting heavier-than-normal traffic, while in New York the Belt Parkway, I-278 and I-495 are predicted to be troublesome on Wednesday.
In Seattle, I-5 and I-495 are expected to have heavy traffic on Wednesday, while in Washington, D.C., I-95 and I-270 are expected to be slow are expected to be slow on Wednesday.
Be prepared for your trip
But how well you plan your road trip can make the difference between a trip you’ll never forget and one you’ll regret taking.
Check the wipers, wiper blades, air conditioning, heating battery, tires, belts, and brakes on your ride before you leave. Make sure to check the air pressure on your tires. The correct inflation is indicated on the driver’s side front door jamb of modern automobiles, trucks, and SUVs. Additionally, if your automobile has a spare tire, make sure it is useable and properly inflated.
While you’re at it, inspect the tread on all four tires. Take a penny, and place it repeatedly upside-down in the tread of the tire. If you can see the top of Abraham Lincoln’s head, change the tire. Examine the tread’s condition as well. If both of a tire’s edges are worn, the tire is under-inflated. If the tread is worn in the middle, it is overinflated.
Also, have someone stand outside of the vehicle to ensure that your vehicle’s headlights, brake lights, turn signals and fog lights are all functioning.
Given that you’ll be spending a lot of time in your automobile, you should clean both inside and exterior before leaving. Additionally, make sure you have a first aid kit, jumper cables, and road flares in an emergency road kit because you can never plan for the unexpected.
Once you’re confident that your automobile is ready, bring some entertainment along. You’ll undoubtedly bring your phone and/or tablet with you. But remember to pack CDs, DVDs, an MP3 player, and audiobooks as well.
If you have children, bring along their favorite toys and books, and prepare a goodie bag to encourage good conduct. Take cushions and blankets with you for naps if you want some peace and quiet.
Even though it might seem obvious, don’t forget your driver’s license, vehicle registration, and auto and health insurance cards. In order for someone to find you in an emergency, make sure someone staying at home has a copy of your itinerary.
When packing your car, place heavier goods as closely as you can to the center of the car for the best weight distribution and handling. keep in mind that you could need to access the spare tire, so load the car with the assumption that you might need to unpack it at some point. Moreover, consider the combined weight of your passengers and baggage, as vehicles may handle unsafely if overloaded. The owner’s manual for your automobile, truck, or SUV has information about the maximum cargo capacity.
Finally, you might wish to keep an extra set of car keys with you — just in case you may need them.