How Many People Travel By Car on Thanksgiving?

Thanksgiving marks the beginning of the holiday season. Millions of Americans will get into the holiday spirit and travel to visit friends and family members in the next few days. If you’re looking for a reason to stay home and skip out on Thanksgiving travel, an estimate from AAA.com may be the perfect excuse. Just how many people travel by car on Thanksgiving?

How many people travel on Thanksgiving?

AAA estimates that 54.6 million people will travel at least 50 miles for Thanksgiving 2022. Thanksgiving travel is getting closer to pre-pandemic levels. AAA.com does not make a distinction between how many travelers are driving cars vs. SUVs, trucks, or vans.

Since the small SUV vehicle segment is the most popular vehicle segment in America, it’s safe to assume that a large percentage of the estimated 54.6 million people traveling on turkey day will be in popular small SUVs like the Toyota RAV4 and Honda CR-V. Expect plenty of popular full-size pickup trucks on the road, like the Ford F-150, Ram 1500, and Chevrolet Silverado as well.

As for cars, thousands of drivers and families will hop in Honda Civics and Toyota Corollas to get to their Thanksgiving destinations. There are two major takeaways from AAA’s Thanksgiving travel estimates. The first takeaway is that Thanksgiving travel is expected to increase by at least 1.5% in 2022, meaning more Americans feel safe socializing despite the global pandemic.

The second major takeaway is that there will be a significant increase in traffic year over year during Thanksgiving weekend. So, be sure to account for heavy traffic when planning your drive.

What is the busiest travel day for Thanksgiving?

The busiest days travel days for Thanksgiving are typically the Tuesday and Wednesday preceding Thanksgiving day and the Sunday after the holiday when millions of Americans head home.

Vehicles in traffic, American Automobile Association (AAA) predicts nearly 55 million Americans will travel 50 miles or more for the Thanksgiving holiday weekend.
American Automobile Association (AAA) predicts nearly 55 million Americans will travel 50 miles or more for the Thanksgiving holiday weekend | Mario Tama/Getty Images

Forbes claims that the Wednesday before Thanksgiving day is among the worst days for travel, along with the Saturday following turkey day. If that sounds confusing, it’s because millions of Americans will be traveling between Wednesday the 23rd and Sunday the 27th. So unless you travel on the Monday of Thanksgiving week, chances are you’ll face bumper-to-bumper traffic (great opportunity for automakers to market advanced cruise control with stop-and-go).

What are the most expensive states for Thanksgiving driving?

California will have the highest American gas prices in the United States of America for Thanksgiving. Cali is home to over 39 million Americans. A large percentage of those Americans will pay close to $5.15 per gallon if they fill up their tank before driving for Thanksgiving. Gas prices have been historically high in 2022.

Other states with particularly high gas prices include Washington, Oregon, Idaho, Nevada, Utah, Arizona, Alaska, Hawaii, and Pennslyvania. Some of the cheapest states to fill your tank in this Thanksgiving include Kansas, Missouri, Oklahoma, Arkansas, Mississippi, Louisiana, Texas, Arkansas, Alabama, Tennessee, Georgia, and South Carolina.

The national average gas price as of Wednesday, November 23rd, is $3.60, according to AAA.com. Refueling this Thanksgiving could cost a pretty penny on the west coast. Happy Thanksgiving, and safe travels on one of the busiest travel days of the year.