Travel over Thanksgiving expected to be almost as busy as pre-pandemic levels

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This Thanksgiving, roads and airports will be busy as AAA predicts 53.4 million people in the nation, and more than 1.4 million in Washington, will travel for the holiday, representing an increase of 13% and 16%, respectively, from the prior year.

The new forecast shows national travel volumes within 5% of pre-pandemic levels in 2019 in the nation and 2% above for Washington.

Out of the travelers, 87% in Washington are expected to drive. Around 1.2 million Washingtonians are expected to travel by car this year to reach their Thanksgiving destination. That’s an increase of 9% even despite 2020’s lower gas prices.

“This Thanksgiving, travel will look a lot different than last year,” said Kelly Just, spokesperson for AAA Washington in a news release. “With borders reopened, plus new health and safety guidelines in place, travel is once again high on the list of Americans ready to reunite with their loved ones for the holiday.”

Air travel is up 82% in Washington since its dramatic fall during the pandemic, stated a release. More than 160,000 people in Washington are expected to reach their Thanksgiving destinations by plane.

In Washington, travel by trains, buses and cruise ships is also expected to increase by 263% from 2020, but is projected to remain 31% below pre-pandemic levels, stated the release. 

AAA, in collaboration with INRIX, predicts drivers will experience the worst congestion as they head into the holiday weekend, which will mix commuters who leave work early with the influx of holiday travelers. 

The best time to travel on Wednesday is expected to be after 9 p.m., before 11 a.m. on Thursday and Friday, and before noon on Saturday and Sunday. The worst times to travel are predicted to be between noon and 8 p.m. on Wednesday, from noon to 3 p.m. on Thursday, from 1 to 4 p.m. on Friday, from 2 to 7 p.m. on Saturday and from 1 to 7 p.m. on Sunday. 

Travelers are encouraged to be patient and to plan ahead for any holiday travel. 

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