Thanksgiving travel increase seen

For the eighth consecutive year, AAA is expecting more Oklahomans to take auto trips over Thanksgiving this year than they did the year before. According to the auto club’s projections, 555,600 Oklahomans will get to Thanksgiving destinations this year by motor vehicle, which represents 90 percent of all travel and a 1.3 percent increase over last year.

The American Automobile Association projects 48.7 million Americans will journey 50 miles or more from home this Thanksgiving, an increase of one million travelers compared with last year.

This represents a 1.9 percent increase over 2015, and the most Thanksgiving travelers since 2007.

Airports in Oklahonma will be busy this Thanksgiving – AAA projects 49,600 Oklahomans will fly this year to spend the holiday with friends or family – or just to relax – which is a one percent jump over last year.

Another 9,770 will get there by other modes, including bus, RV and cruise ship, a slight increase over last year. In all, 615,300 Oklahomans will travel 50 miles or more from home over the long holiday weekend, 1.3 percent more than Thanksgiving, 2015.

“We believe this year’s increase in Thanksgiving travel is being driven by improvements in the economy during the second half of the year, including rising wages, increased consumer spending and overall strength in consumer confidence,” said Chuck Mai, spokesman for AAA Oklahoma. “Plus, Oklahoma’s pump prices for regular gasoline are pretty enticing right now. At $1.872 per gallon (November 16), the state average is second lowest of all the states, it is about 12 cents less than on this date last year, and it’s well below today’s national average of $2.157. Only Missouri’s price average of $1.868 beats us.”

Nationwide, more than 89 percent of holiday travelers will drive this Thanksgiving. The 43.5 million Americans planning a Thanksgiving road trip represents an increase of 1.9 percent over last year. Air travel is expected to increase 1.6 percent, with 3.69 million Americans flying to their holiday destinations. Travel by other modes of transportation, including cruises, trains and buses, will increase only slightly this Thanksgiving, to 1.44 million travelers.

According to AAA’s Leisure Travel Index, airfares are projected to increase 21 percent this Thanksgiving, landing at an average of $205 for a roundtrip flight for the top 40 domestic routes. Rates for AAA Three Diamond Rated lodgings are expected to remain flat, with travelers spending an average of $155 per night. The average rate for a AAA Two Diamond Rated hotel has risen four percent with an average nightly cost of $123. Daily car rental rates will average $52, 13 percent lower than last Thanksgiving.

AAA expects to rescue more than 370,000 motorists this Thanksgiving, with the primary reasons being dead batteries, flat tires and lockouts.

According to, the following airports will have the heaviest travel load during the Thanksgiving holiday:

  1. ATL – Atlanta
  2. LAX – Los Angeles
  3. ORD – Chicago
  4. DFW – Dallas
  5. JFK – New York City
  6. DEN – Denver
  7. SFO – San Francisco
  8. LAS – Las Vegas
  9. CLT – Charlotte
  10. PHX – Phoenix

Atlanta beats out several larger metro areas as the busiest airport for both holidays due to the large number of connecting passengers. The Sunday after Thanksgiving is busiest travel day, followed by the Wednesday before Thanksgiving.

“Our data indicates that when travelers are made aware of the probability of delays, they are more likely to compare and buy travel delay benefits during a purchase,” says Melissa Caldarone, data analyst at InsureMyTrip.

For those concerned about a delayed flight adversely affecting a cruise or tour departure, travelers may also want to ensure a missed connection benefit is included under a selected comprehensive travel insurance plan. This benefit is designed to provide travelers with coverage if a delayed flight (for example, of 3 hours or more) causes a traveler to miss a cruise departure. Florida airports tend to be very busy during cruise season, so plan for delays.