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3 million Floridians expected to travel over Thanksgiving weekend, AAA says

Traffic backs in the north-bound lanes of Interstate 75 near the Georgia-Florida state line as people flee Hurricane Irma Friday, Sept. 8, 2017, in Jennings, Fla.. (AP Photo/John Bazemore)
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Traffic backs in the north-bound lanes of Interstate 75 near the Georgia-Florida state line as people flee Hurricane Irma Friday, Sept. 8, 2017, in Jennings, Fla.. (AP Photo/John Bazemore)

This year’s holiday travel forecast of three million Floridians on the road is a 3% increase over last year; the second highest since 2001.

AAA projects that more than 3 million Floridians will travel 50 miles or more during the Thanksgiving holiday travel period.

That forecast is the second highest on record (2005), with an expected 87,000 or 3 percent more holiday travelers than last year.

“Travel demand has been strong all year and that trend will continue with one of the busiest Thanksgivings on record,” said Debbie Haas, Vice President of Travel for AAA – The Auto Club Group. “With more people taking to the roads, skies, rails and sea; travelers should expect congested roads and longer lines at transportation terminals. AAA encourages travelers to develop their plan now, leave early, and be courteous to others."

Nationwide, more than 55.3 million Americans are forecast to travel for Thanksgiving. It’s the third-largest travel volume on record, with nearly 1.3 million (2.3%) more than last year, yet fewer than 2019 and 2005 levels.

Most Thanksgiving travelers will drive to their destinations. AAA predicts nearly 2.8 million Floridians will take a road trip of 50 miles or more. That’s nearly 71,000 more Florida drivers (+2.6%) than last year. This year’s forecasted auto travel volume is 10,000 shy of the all-time high, set during the 2005 Thanksgiving holiday weekend.

Service station gas pumps
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WGCU
Service station gas pumps

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Thanksgiving road trips should be less costly at the gas pump this year. Despite global tensions causing ripples through the oil market, strong domestic gasoline supplies are causing pump prices to drop.

Last Thanksgiving, the national average price for gasoline was $3.58 per gallon, while the state average was $3.41. AAA believes gas prices should remain low through the holiday season unless oil prices suddenly spike. You can visit GasPrices.AAA.com to view updated gas price averages.

AAA is also expectong nearly 210,000 Floridians to fly for Thanksgiving — nearly 12,000 (6%) more than 2022, and the second highest air travel volume in 15 years, behind 2019.

The Tuesday and Wednesday before Thanksgiving are the busiest air travel days ahead of the holiday and the most expensive. While Sunday is typically the busiest day to return home, AAA data shows Monday is also a popular day to fly back after Thanksgiving.

Meanwhile, the number of Floridians traveling by cruise, bus, and train over Thanksgiving is up nearly 9% over last year. AAA expects 50,000 travelers to head out of town using these other modes of transportation, which suffered a severe setback during the pandemic, but have rebounded nicely.

“The cruise industry, in particular, has made a remarkable comeback, and thrives during the holidays,” Haas added. “Holiday cruises are highly sought-after as a means for large families to travel together and visit multiple destinations without having to worry about the cooking and cleanup. For those looking to plan a 2024 vacation, this is also a great time to connect with a Travel Advisor, who can navigate the many options available to find the best fit.”

Best and worst times to drive

INRIX, a provider of transportation data and insights, expects Wednesday, November 22, to be the busiest day on the roads during the Thanksgiving holiday travel period, with average travel times as high as 80% longer than normal in some metro areas.

INRIX recommends leaving in the morning or after 6 p.m. to avoid the heaviest holiday congestion.“The day before Thanksgiving is notoriously one of the most congested days on our roadways. Travelers should be prepared for long delays, especially in and around major metros,” said Bob Pishue, transportation analyst at INRIX.

“Knowing when and where congestion will build can help minimize holiday traffic frustrations. We advise drivers to use traffic apps, local DOT notifications, and 511 services for real-time updates.”

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Copyright 2023 WGCU. To see more, visit WGCU.

WGCU Staff