AAA expects plenty of Thanksgiving traffic during the busiest holiday travel period in 13 years

Thanksgiving dinner is about families being together, and that means lots of travelers.  Millions of Americans board planes, trains, or hit the road each Thanksgiving, but AAA Travel is predicting—thanks to a strong economy—that Thanksgiving in 2018 will be the busiest since 2005. In fact, they’re forecasting that more than 54 million Americans will journey 50 miles or more between November 21 and 26.

AAA's forecast by the numbers

  •  Travelers by automobile:

    48.5 million
  • Travelers by plane:

    4.2 million
  • Travelers by train or other:

    1.5 million

  • National average gas price for regular as of November 7:

  • Projected increase in travelers in 2018 vs. 2017:

    +2.5 million
  • Years that travel volume will have increased:

    10 in a row

The factors that affect the forecast

  • Economy still going strong

    The strong fundamentals of wages, disposable income, and household wealth are all continuing to increase.
  • Consumers feel optimistic

    Consumer and corporate outlook measures remain positive. Consumer confidence reached an 18-year high.
  • Red arrow trending up

    Gas prices rising steadily

    The national average for a gallon of regular is around $2.74, which is 18 cents more than last year.
Holiday road traffic forecast for major cities, according to INRIX
Based on historical and recent travel trends, transportation analytics company INRIX predicts the most holiday road traffic in the early evening as soon as Monday, November 19, as commuters and holiday travelers mix. At its peak, drivers in San Francisco, New York City, and Boston may see delays of nearly quadruple normal drive times. Los Angeles Thanksgiving traffic may have delays of double the normal drive time.

  • Atlanta

    Busiest Atlanta hotspots

    • I-75 North at Chastain Road

    • I-85 South at I-985

    • I-285 CCW at I-20

  • Austin

    Busiest Austin hotspots

    • I-35 South at FM-2001
    • I-35 South at Slaughter Lane
    • US-290 East at TX-95
  • Boston

    Busiest Boston hotspots

    • I-90 West at I-84/US-20
    • I-90 West at MA-122
    • I-93 South at MA-24
  • Chicago

    Busiest Chicago hotspots

    • I-90 West at I-190
    • I-294 South at Hinsdale Oasis
    • I-90/I-94 East at I-290

  • Dallas

    Busiest Dallas hotspots

    • US-75 South at I-45/I-30
    • I-35W South at Garden Acres
    • US-75 North at Royal Lane
  • Houston

    Busiest Houston hotspots

    • I-610 South at Beechnut Street
    • I-10 East at US-59
    • US-59 at Beltway 8
  • Los Angeles

    Busiest Los Angeles hotspots

    • I-5 South at Valley View Ave.
    • I-10 East at I-5/US-101
    • I-405 South at Woodruff Ave.
  • New York City

    Busiest New York hotspots

    • I-495 East at NY-106/NY-107
    • Grand Central Parkway East at Northern State Parkway
    • I-95 North at CT-25/CT-8

  • Philadelphia

    Busiest Philadelphia hotspots

    • I-295 South at I-76
    • I-76 East at Belmont Avenue
    • I-76 West at PA-320
  • Pittsburgh

    Busiest Pittsburgh hotspots

    • PA-130 West at PA-711

    • US-19 Truck South at Babcock

    • I-376 East at Braddock Avenue

  • San Antonio

    Busiest San Antonio hotspots

    • US-281 N at Wilderness Oak

    • TX-1604 E at Blanco Road

    • TX-1604 at I-10

  • San Diego

    Busiest San Diego hotspots

    • I-15 North at CA-79
    • I-5 North at Tamarack Avenue
    • I-5 North at California Street

What it means for you

AAA Travel predicts that more than 48 million automobile travelers will account for 89% of all Thanksgiving holiday weekend trips.

With so many on the road, it’s no surprise this is a busy time for AAA’s Roadside Assistance. AAA expects to rescue nearly 360,000 motorists this Thanksgiving. Want to avoid being one? Here’s what you can do:

AAA Battery Service

  • Get your battery checked

    If your battery is more than three years old, don’t risk getting stranded. One easy way to have it tested is with AAA Battery Service, which will come directly to you. Learn more about AAA Battery Service.
  • Check your tire pressure

    Underinflated or unevenly worn tires can lead to sudden blowouts, especially in hot weather. Simply monitoring tire pressure can go a long way toward preventing such interruptions.
  • Bring a spare key

    Despite the wide adoption of wireless “smart” keys, AAA hasn't seen a significant reduction in lockout calls. Having a backup key can’t prevent a lockout, but can make it much easier to resolve.

  • Get a checkup

    Dead batteries and flat tires are most common, but AAA tows lots of vehicles with unforeseen engine, transmission, and brake issues.  Not sure where to go? Consider a AAA Approved Auto Repair facility.
  • Pack an emergency kit

    Every vehicle should have a kit with a phone charger, flashlight, first aid kit, tire pressure gauge, adjustable wrench, windshield washer solution, jumper cables, emergency flares or reflectors, drinking water, and snacks.
  • Get the Auto Club App

    Whether you’re looking to map a route, find low gas prices, request Roadside Assistance, or find an Approved Auto Repair facility, the Auto Club App makes it simple. Learn more about the Auto Club App.
You love your car; AAA loves keeping it running
Through November 30, 2018, AAA members can take advantage of the AAA Car Care Service Package1, starting at $34.99 with conventional oil (additional cost for synthetic oils). The package includes: oil and filter change, tire rotation (if needed) and 40-point vehicle inspection, including battery test. Available at participating AAA Approved Auto Repair facilities. 

1AAA Car Care Service Package is a limited-time offer for members, valid 8/20/18-11/30/18, priced at $34.99 with conventional oil, $54.99 with synthetic blend oil, or $74.99 with full synthetic oil. Oil change includes up to­ five quarts of oil. Tire rotation is only performed if needed. Tax and environmental fees not included. Available for most passenger cars and light trucks. Diesel and select domestic, European, Asian and exotic cars excluded. Inspection is limited to items identi­fied on the designated inspection form only. Cost of any repairs not included. Appointment may be required. Contact the facility in advance for details. Other restrictions may apply. Not valid with any other offer, including 10% AAA member discount. Valid AAA membership card must be presented at a participating AAA Approved Auto Repair facility at the time of service.


Information taken from “AAA: More Than 54 Million Americans to Travel this Thanksgiving, the Most Since 2005,” AAA Public Affairs, Nov. 8, 2018; and “Roadside Breakdowns Preventable with Proper Maintenance, Finds AAA,” AAA Public Affairs, October 8, 2015.