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-busiest trip this year since AAA started tracking 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 pick up your patience whether you’re driving or flying.”
As in 2021, most travelers will drive across the river and through the woods.
According to the AAA, about 49 million of us are expected to get behind the wheel to reach family and friends. Despite a 0.4% increase from 2021 in Thanksgiving car travel, it is still 2.5% behind 2019 levels. And according to a report from Cars.com, 46% of those polled say the prefer to fly, but these revelers drive on Thanksgiving because of the high cost of flying. And another 20% would rather fly, but drive by car so they don’t have to deal with flight delays. According to Cars.com, 80% of travelers plan to drive themselves to their destination, as 92% have recently experienced flight delays.
When do they travel?
And it seems 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 Day, 21% plan to return the following Sunday.
While there will be a small spike in late travelers on Thanksgiving Day, most drivers leave in the morning, before noon, with the South and Mid-Atlantic areas having the most travelers.
According to AAA, the busiest travel time is 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. on Wednesday, 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Thursday, and 4 p.m. to 8 p.m. Friday through Sunday.
“Regardless of the mode of transportation you’ve chosen, expect crowds on your journey and at your destination,” Twidale said. “If your schedule is flexible, consider off-peak hours 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 and I-290 to be bad by mid-week, while in Detroit drivers can expect stalls 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 heavier-than-normal traffic, while in New York, the Belt Parkway, I-278, and I-495 are expect Wednesday to be tough.
In Seattle, I-5 and I-495 are expected to have heavy traffic on Wednesday, while in Washington, DC, I-95 and I-270 are expected to be slow on Wednesday.
Be prepared for your journey
But how well you plan your road trip can make the difference between a trip you’ll never forget and one you’ll regret.
Check the wipers, wiper blades, air conditioning, heater battery, tires, belts and brakes during your ride before you leave. Be sure to check the air pressure of your tires. Proper inflation is indicated on the driver’s side front door pillar of modern cars, trucks and SUVs. If your car has a spare tire, make sure it is serviceable and properly inflated.
While you’re at it, inspect 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 underinflated. If the tread is worn in the middle, it is overinflated.
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, clean both the inside and outside before you leave. In addition, make sure you have a first aid kit, jumper cables and street lamps in an emergency kit, because you can never plan for the unexpected.
Once you’re sure your car is ready, bring some entertainment. You will undoubtedly take your phone and/or tablet with you. But don’t forget to also bring CDs, DVDs, an MP3 player and audio books.
If you have kids, bring their favorite toys and books and prepare a goodie bag to encourage good behavior. Bring pillows and blankets for naps if you want peace and quiet.
Even if it seems obvious, don’t forget your driver’s license, vehicle registration, and car and health insurance cards. To make sure someone can find you in an emergency, make sure someone staying 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 best weight distribution and handling. keep in mind that you may need access to the spare wheel, so load the car assuming you may need to unpack it at some point. In addition, 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 contains information about the maximum load capacity.
Finally, you may want to keep an extra set of car keys with you just in case you need them.