This Is the Best Time to Hit the Road for Thanksgiving Travel, According to AAA

Time to plan ahead!

More than 55 million Americans are expected to travel for Thanksgiving this year, one of the busiest Turkey Day holiday periods in recent history.

Of the 55.4 million people who will travel 50 miles or more from home this year, the vast majority will hit the road, according to AAA. In fact, 49.1 million Americans will drive to their destination this year from Wednesday, Nov. 22, to Sunday, Nov. 26, a 1.7 percent increase compared to 2022.

Overall, Thanksgiving travel is up 2.3 percent compared to last year and is expected to be the third-busiest since AAA began tracking holiday travel in 2000 (only 2005 and 2019 were busier).

<p>John Coletti/Getty Images</p>

John Coletti/Getty Images

“For many Americans, Thanksgiving and travel go hand in hand, and this holiday, we expect more people on the roads, skies, and seas compared to 2022,” Paula Twidale, the senior vice president of AAA Travel, said in a statement. “Travel demand has been strong all year, and AAA’s Thanksgiving forecast reflects that continued desire to get away and spend time with loved ones.”

For travelers getting behind the wheel, the Wednesday before Thanksgiving is expected to be the busiest with average travel times predicted to be up to 80 percent higher than normal in some metro areas, according to the group. Travelers hoping to make the best of a bad situation should consider leaving in the morning or after 6 p.m. to avoid the worst traffic.

The busiest time of the day is forecast to be between 2 p.m. and 6 p.m.

Travelers heading home on Friday, Nov. 24, should consider leaving before 11 a.m. or after 7 p.m., while travelers driving on Sunday, Nov. 26, should hit the road before noon.

Some areas will also likely be worse than others, like Los Angeles to Bakersfield on I-5 N, which is expected to be one of the most congested stretches in the country compared to normal travel times.

For travelers who are taking to the skies, the Tuesday and Wednesday before Thanksgiving will likely be the busiest — and most expensive — travel days ahead of the holiday, according to AAA. The Sunday after Turkey Day is typically the busiest travel day to return home.

Overall, 4.7 million people are expected to fly over Thanksgiving, a 6.6 percent increase compared to 2022.

The forecast comes as major airlines in the United States are expecting to see record numbers of travelers. United Airlines, for example, has told Travel + Leisure it expects to have its busiest Thanksgiving ever.

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