Lonely Planet Writer

How to avoid the worst of Thanksgiving traffic this year

Thanksgiving is due to officially kick off the busy holiday period in the United States this week, and while many Americans make preparations to visit family and friends all over the country, a new study has suggested that this year will see the highest volume of seasonal travellers since 2005.

The US is set to experience the highest volume of Thanksgiving travellers since 2005.
The US is set to experience the highest volume of Thanksgiving travellers since 2005. Image by izusek

According to AAA and INRIX, a global transportation analytics company, this year an estimated 50.9 million Americans will journey 50 miles or more for Thanksgiving, showing a 3.3% increase over 2016 and leading to travel times that could be more than three times longer over the holiday week. Compared with last year, and estimated 1.6 million more people will take to the nation’s roads, skies, rails and waterways. “A strong economy and labour market are generating rising incomes and higher consumer confidence, fuelling a strong year for the travel industry, which will continue into the holiday season,” said Bill Sutherland, Senior Vice President of AAA. The study, which saw the Thanksgiving period being defined as the dates between Wednesday 22 November to Sunday 26 November, also showed that consumers will be paying the cheapest average airfare since 2013, while 89% of all travellers are planning a Thanksgiving road trip. The figures also indicated the daily rates for car rental will hit a five-year high for the holiday period, at $70 per day.

Street traffic, New York City, New York State, USA
This year an estimated 50.9 million Americans will journey 50 miles or more for Thanksgiving. Image by Alan Schein

The study also outlined the wost days and times for travel for ten major cities in the USA:

Metro Area Worst Day for Travel Worst Time for Travel Delay
Chicago, IL Tuesday 5:00 – 6:00 PM 3x
San Francisco, CA Tuesday 4:00 – 5:45 PM 2.5X
Los Angeles, CA Tuesday 3:15 – 6:00 PM 2.5x
Boston, MA Tuesday 5:15 – 7:15 PM 2.5x
New York, NY Tuesday 5:30 – 6:30 PM 2x
Washington, DC Tuesday 4:45 – 6:00 PM 2x
Seattle, WA Tuesday 3:45 – 5:30 PM 2x
Atlanta, GA Wednesday 3:00 – 5:15 PM 2x
Houston, TX Wednesday 5:45 – 7:00 PM 1x
Detroit, MI Tuesday 3:00 – 5:30 PM 1x

The worst traffic hotspot during Thanksgiving week in each of the 10 most congested cities in the U.S. were also outlined:

Rank City Location
1 Los Angeles, CA I-5 S at Valley View Ave
2 New York, NY I-495 E at NY-106/NY-107
3 San Francisco, CA I-80 E at Pinole Valley Rd
4 Atlanta, GA I-75 N at Chastain Rd
5 Miami, FL I-95 N at Congress Ave
6 Washington, DC I-95 S at US-17/US-1
7 Dallas, TX US-75 S at I-45/I-3
8 Boston, MA I-90 W at I-84/US-20
9 Chicago, IL I-90 W at I-190
10 Seattle, WA I-405 S at WA-167

The survey also indicated that many travelers will seek theme-park and warm-weather destinations this holiday season, with both Orlando, Florida, and Anaheim, California, topping this year’s top 10 holiday destinations based on AAA.com bookings. Compared to previous years, New York City, Las Vegas and San Francisco are also gaining popularity as holiday spots.