AAA expects nearly 55 million Americans will travel during the long holiday weekend

WASHINGTON, D.C. (November 18, 2022) – AAA predicts 54.6 million people will travel 50 miles or more from home this Thanksgiving. That’s a 1.5% increase over 2021 and 98% of pre-pandemic volumes. This year is projected to be the third busiest for Thanksgiving travel since AAA started tracking in 2000*.

From theme park destinations to bustling metropolitan areas, Americans are crisscrossing the country this Thanksgiving. AAA has compiled a list of the top domestic destinations based on flight, hotel, and rental car bookings for Thanksgiving week. Orlando and Anaheim top the list again, as they did in 2021 and 2019, while two new additions round out the top 10 this year: Chicago and Charlotte.

“Thanksgiving is all about spending time with family and friends, so it’s no surprise that theme park destinations top the list, with entertainment and meals accessible within a resort,” said Paula Twidale, AAA’s Senior Vice President of Travel. “Chicago and Charlotte join Atlanta as hub cities for the three largest airlines – American, Delta, and United – and will see lots of activity this holiday season, as airline routes and direct flights are limited, and staff shortage still exists.”

Average hotel booking costs are up 8% compared to 2021, but hotel prices in some cities like Las Vegas and Denver are lower this year. “Since travel restrictions have lifted, we are seeing more of a shift from rural destinations back to urban cities, like New York,” Twidale added. “Consumer confidence has improved, and travelers want the excitement and accessibility of big cities, as well as more hotel options and greater inventory, which can sometimes mean better pricing.”

Ranking Destination Average Hotel Booking* 2022 Prices Compared to 2021
1 Orlando, FL $616 ↓ 11%
2 Anaheim, CA $643 ↑  5%
3 Las Vegas, NV $319 ↓ 17%
4 New York, NY $1,116 ↑ 25%
5 Atlanta, GA $426 ↑  7%
6 Phoenix, AZ $530 ↓  7%
7 Dallas/Fort Worth, TX $406 ↑ 13%
8 Denver, CO $407 ↓ 24%
9 Chicago, IL $440 ↑ 17%
10 Charlotte, NC $510 ↑ 66%

*AAA hotel data reflects average booking prices for entire stays during Thanksgiving week, which vary in length. These are not nightly rates.

“Families and friends are eager to spend time together this Thanksgiving, one of the busiest for travel in the past two decades,” says Twidale. “Plan ahead and pack your patience, whether you’re driving or flying.”

Most travelers will drive to their destinations, much like last year. Nearly 49 million people are expected to travel by car. While Thanksgiving road trips have slightly risen – up 0.4% from 2021 – car travel remains 2.5% below 2019 levels.

Air travel is up nearly 8% over 2021, with 4.5 million Americans flying to their Thanksgiving destinations this year. That’s an increase of more than 330,000 travelers and nearly 99% of the 2019 volume. “Airport parking spaces fill up fast, so reserve a spot ahead of time and arrive early,” Twidale suggests. “Anticipate long TSA lines. If possible, avoid checking a bag to allow for more flexibility if flights are delayed or you need to reschedule.”

Americans are also ramping up travel by other modes of transportation. More than 1.4 million travelers are going out of town for Thanksgiving by bus, train, or cruise ship. That’s an increase of 23% from 2021 and 96% of the 2019 volume. “With travel restrictions lifted and more people comfortable taking public transportation again, it’s no surprise buses, trains, and cruises are coming back in a big way,” Twidale adds. “Regardless of the mode of transportation you have chosen, expect crowds during your trip and at your destination. If your schedule is flexible, consider off-peak travel times during the holiday rush.”

*2005 and 2019 have been the busiest years for Thanksgiving travel, respectively, since AAA started tracking in 2000. 

2000 Thanksgiving Holiday Travel Forecast Chart

Additional details here.