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Thanksgiving road trips cost less this year

Posted on Tuesday, February 20, 2024 at 10:23 am

AAA projects more than 1.3 million Tennesseans will travel 50 miles or more during the Thanksgiving holiday travel period. This year’s forecast is the second highest on record, with an expected 31,000 (2.4%) more holiday travelers than last year.

“Travel demand has been strong all year and that trend will continue with one of the busiest Thanksgivings on record,” said Debbie Haas, Vice President of Travel for AAA – The Auto Club Group. “With more people taking to the roads, skies, rails and sea; travelers should expect congested roads and longer lines at transportation terminals. AAA encourages travelers to develop their plan now, leave early, and be courteous to others.”

Most Thanksgiving travelers will drive to their destinations. AAA predicts 1.2 million Tennesseans will take a road trip of 50 miles or more. That’s over 28,000 more Tennessee drivers (+2.3%) than last year.

Thanksgiving road trips should be less costly at the gas pump this year. Despite global tensions causing ripples through the oil market, strong domestic gasoline supplies are causing pump prices to drop. Last Thanksgiving, the national average price for gasoline was $3.58 per gallon, while the state average was $3.16. On Sunday (11/12), Tennessee drivers paid an average price of $2.96. AAA believes gas prices should remain low through the holiday season unless oil prices suddenly spike.

INRIX, a provider of transportation data and insights, expects Wednesday, November 22, to be the busiest day on the roads during the Thanksgiving holiday travel period, with average travel times as high as 80% longer than normal in some metro areas. INRIX recommends leaving in the morning or after 6 p.m. to avoid the heaviest holiday congestion.

“The day before Thanksgiving is notoriously one of the most congested days on our roadways. Travelers should be prepared for long delays, especially in and around major metros,” said Bob Pishue, transportation analyst at INRIX. “Knowing when and where congestion will build can help minimize holiday traffic frustrations. We advise drivers to use traffic apps, local DOT notifications, and 511 services for real-time updates.”

The number of Tennesseans traveling by cruise, bus, and train over Thanksgiving is up nearly 10% over last year. AAA expects 12,000 travelers to head out of town using these other modes of transportation, which suffered a severe setback during the pandemic, but have rebounded nicely.

“The cruise industry, in particular, has made a remarkable comeback, and thrives during the holidays,” Haas added. “Holiday cruises are highly sought-after as a means for large families to travel together and visit multiple destinations without having to worry about the cooking and cleanup. For those looking to plan a 2024 vacation, this is also a great time to connect with a Travel Advisor, who can navigate the many options available to find the best fit.”