AAA: Thanksgiving travel to rebound nearing pre-pandemic levels

AAA forecasts a strong rebound in holiday travelers this Thanksgiving. The Auto Club Group predicts 53.4 million Americans will travel for the Thanksgiving holiday, up 13% from 2020. This brings travel volumes within 5% of pre-pandemic levels for the 2019 holiday. 

According to AAA, In Wisconsin, total travel figures are only 8% below pre-pandemic levels. AAA predicts nearly 1 million Wisconsinites will travel for Thanksgiving, an almost 13% rebound from the total number of travelers during the 2020 holiday.

"It’s beginning to look more like a normal holiday travel season, compared to what we saw last year," said Debbie Haas, Vice President of Travel for AAA – The Auto Club Group. "Now that U.S. borders are open, vaccinations are readily available, and new health and safety guidelines are in place, travel is once again high on the list for Americans who are ready to reunite with their loved ones for the holidays."

Busier Roads and Airports

With 6.4 million more Americans traveling this Thanksgiving 121,000 more Wisconsinites, people should prepare for the roads and airports to be noticeably more crowded than last year’s holiday. AAA predicts road travel to increase 8%. Yet the most notable improvement this year’s holiday is domestic air travel, which has almost completely recovered from its dramatic drop-off during the pandemic and is up 80% from last year.

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Travel Pricing

Air—Even with air travel seeing a boost this year, AAA finds that the average lowest airfare is 27.3% less than last year coming in at $132. Tuesday and Wednesday are still the most expensive and heaviest travel days, while Monday and Thursday are generally the lightest and least expensive. Those wanting to book last minute travel will find the best fares about two weeks before Thanksgiving, but keep in mind availability may be limited.

Hotels—Mid-range hotel rates have increased about 39%, with average nightly rates ranging between $137 and $172 for AAA Approved Hotels.

Car Rentals—Daily car rental rates have increased 4% compared to last Thanksgiving at $98. Over the summer, consumers experienced high costs and limited availability of rental cars in some markets due to the semi-conductor chip shortage impacting automakers.  As the number of travelers continues to grow, it’s important to reserve rental cars as early as possible.  Consult AAA.com/Travel for options and special benefits.

Gas Prices—Gas prices surged in October and are likely to remain elevated through the holiday season. The average price for gasoline in Wisconsin was $3.15 per gallon on Monday, November 8th. Thanksgiving gas prices haven’t been that high since 2014. The state average was $1.91 per gallon during last year’s holiday (November 26), and $2.41 on Thanksgiving Day in 2019 (November 28).

View daily gas price averages at GasPrices.AAA.com

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