Thanksgiving travel predicted to be third busiest since 2000

(ABC 6 News) – Thanksgiving celebrations will be in full swing for many families for the first time since before the pandemic as holiday travel is predicted to be the third busiest this year since 2000.

According to AAA, 54.6 million Americans will travel 50 or more miles from home this Thanksgiving.

Despite higher gas prices, 89% of all Thanksgiving travelers will drive to their destination this year, much like last year. AAA forecasts 48.6 million Americans will set out for a holiday road trip. That’s 203,000 more drivers than last year.

Gas prices will likely set record highs for the holiday in both Minnesota and Iowa. In Minnesota, the highest daily average price for Thanksgiving was set back in 2012, at $3.29 per gallon. Iowa’s was set the same year at $3.30 per gallon. As of Wednesday, the average price for a gallon of gas in Minnesota is $3.47. In Iowa, the price is $3.35 per gallon, according to AAA.

“Gas prices are a lot higher than they have been in the past,” Meredith Mitts, Public Affairs Specialist for AAA (Minnesota/Iowa) said. “I know it’s a downer, but it’s not keeping people from traveling as we’re seeing pre pandemic numbers.”

RELATED: Thanksgiving Travel Tips from AAA

Thanksgiving travelers are likely to find long lines at the airport despite airfare costs up 22% from last year. Nationwide, air travel alone is up nearly 8% from last year, with 4.5 million Americans flying to their Thanksgiving destinations this year. That’s an increase of more than 330,000 air passengers and nearly 99% of the 2019 volume. 

The TSA says Wednesday and Sunday will be the busiest travel days of the season, and to expect the peak times to be between 4:00 a.m. and 6:00 a.m., as well as 2:00 p.m. to 5:00 p.m.

In addition, TSA officials say to get to the airport at least 2 hours early to have enough time to get through traffic, parking, baggage, check-in and security.