AAA predicts Thanksgiving 2022 travel to be near pre-pandemic levels

AAA predicts Thanksgiving 2022 travel to be near pre-pandemic levels

November 17th, 2022

AAA predicts 54.6 million people will travel 50 miles or more from home this Thanksgiving. That’s a 1.5% increase over 2021 and 98% of pre-pandemic volumes. This year is projected to be the third busiest for Thanksgiving travel since AAA started tracking in 2000*.

“Families and friends are eager to spend time together this Thanksgiving, one of the busiest for travel in the past two decades,” says Paula Twidale, AAA’s Senior Vice President of Travel. “Plan ahead and pack your patience, whether you’re driving or flying.”

For purposes of this forecast, the Thanksgiving holiday travel period is defined as the five-day period from Wednesday, November 23 to Sunday, November 27. The Wednesday to Sunday period is consistent with previous years.

Most travelers will drive to their destinations, much like last year. Nearly 49 million people are expected to travel by car. While Thanksgiving road trips have slightly risen – up 0.4% from 2021 – car travel remains 2.5% below 2019 levels.

Air travel is up nearly 8% over 2021, with 4.5 million Americans flying to their Thanksgiving destinations this year. That’s an increase of more than 330,000 travelers and nearly 99% of the 2019 volume. “Airport parking spaces fill up fast, so reserve a spot ahead of time and arrive early,” Twidale suggests. “Anticipate long TSA lines. If possible, avoid checking a bag to allow for more flexibility if flights are delayed or you need to reschedule.”

Americans are also ramping up travel by other modes of transportation. More than 1.4 million travelers are going out of town for Thanksgiving by bus, train, or cruise ship. That’s an increase of 23% from 2021 and 96% of the 2019 volume. “With travel restrictions lifted and more people comfortable taking public transportation again, it’s no surprise buses, trains, and cruises are coming back in a big way,” Twidale adds. “Regardless of the mode of transportation you have chosen, expect crowds during your trip and at your destination. If your schedule is flexible, consider off-peak travel times during the holiday rush.”

*2005 and 2019 have been the busiest years for Thanksgiving travel, respectively, since AAA started tracking in 2000. 

2000 Thanksgiving Holiday Travel Forecast Chart

Busiest Corridors and Best/Worst Times to Travel 

INRIX expects severe congestion in several U.S. metro areas, with some drivers experiencing more than double normal delays. Highways in and around Atlanta, Chicago, New York City, and Los Angeles will be the busiest. To avoid the most hectic times, INRIX recommends traveling early in the morning on Wednesday or before 11am on Thanksgiving Day and avoiding travel between 4pm-8pm Friday, Saturday, and Sunday.

“Thanksgiving is one of the busiest holidays for road trips, and this year will be no different,” says Bob Pishue, Transportation Analyst, INRIX. “Although travel times will peak on Wednesday afternoon nationally, travelers should expect much heavier than normal congestion throughout the holiday weekend. Knowing when and where congestion will build can help drivers avoid the stress of sitting in traffic.”

Best & Worst Times to Travel (by car)

Date Worst travel time Best travel time
11/23/22 11:00 AM – 8:00 PM Before 8:00 AM, After 8:00 PM
11/24/22 11:00 AM – 3:00 PM Before 11:00 AM, After 6:00 PM
11/25/22 4:00 PM – 8:00 PM Before 11:00 AM, After 8:00 PM
11/26/22 4:00 PM – 8:00 PM Before 2:00 PM, After 8:00 PM
11/27/22 4:00 PM – 8:00 PM Before 11:00 AM, After 8:00 PM

Peak Congestion by Metro

Metro Corridor Increase Over Typical Traffic Peak Congestion
Atlanta I-85 South; Clairmont Rd  to MLK Jr Dr 105% Wed, 11/23/22 – 1:30-3:30 PM
Boston I-93 South; Albany St to MA-24 53% Wed, 11/23/22 – 2:15-4:15 PM
Chicago I-290 West; Morgan St to Wolf Rd 99% Wed, 11/23/22 – 3:00-5:00 PM
Detroit US-23 North; 8 Mile Rd to Lee Rd 32% Wed, 11/23/22 – 2:00-4:00 PM
Houston I-10 West; Sjolander Rd to TX-330 81% Wed, 11/23/22 – 3:45-5:45 PM
Los Angeles I-5 South; Colorado St to Florence Ave 144% Wed, 11/23/22 – 5:30-7:30 PM
New York I-278 South; I-495 to 6th Ave 158% Wed, 11/23/22 – 2:45-4:45 PM
San Francisco I-80 West; Maritime St to San Pablo Dam Rd 80% Wed, 11/23/22 – 4:00-5:00 PM
Seattle I-5 South;  WA-18 to WA-7 86% Wed, 11/23/22 – 4:15-6:15 PM
Washington DC I-495 Counterclockwise; I-95 to VA-123 85% Sun, 11/27/22 – 11:15 AM-1:15 PM

Expected Traffic by Metro & Corridor 

Metro Corridor Increase over Typical Traffic Day
Atlanta I85 south J91 to J248A 105% Wednesday, 11/23/22


I75 north J205 to J227 64%
I85 clockwise J29 to J46 61%
I285 anti-clockwise J27 to J10B 56%
US19 north J4B to J10 11%
Boston I93 south J20 to J4 76% Wednesday, 11/23/22
I93 north J23 to J34 53%
I95 south J20B to J10 30%
I90 west J20 to 11A 26%
MA3 J15 North to I93 J23 19%
Chicago I290 west J29B to J16 99% Wednesday, 11/23/22
I290 east J17 to J29B 84%
I94 west J16 to J160 59%
I94 north J68B to J52B 35%
I294 J27B to J17B 14%
Detroit US23 north J53 to J60A 44% Wednesday, 11/23/22
I75 north J59 to J67 33%
I96 north J170 to J162 32%
I94 south J219 to J210 32%
I696 west J10 to J1 30%
Houston I10 west J795 to J787 81% Wednesday, 11/23/22
I69 east J123 to J132B 77%
I610 north J4A to J20 49%
I45 south J51 to J40B 33%
I69 south J136 to J115A 25%
LA I5 south J142 to J124 144% Wednesday, 11/23/22
I405 south J57 to J45 106%
I10 J19 to J38 88%
I405 J50 to I5 87%
I10 east J1B to J16A 86%
New York I278 south J35 to J22 158% Wednesday, 11/23/22
I495 east J13 to J32 97%
Blt Parkway west J17 to J3 77%
Blt Parkway east J3 to J17 66%
I495 west J44 to J16 21%
San Francisco I580 east J34 to J65 83% Wednesday, 11/23/22
I80 north J8A to J18 80%
I80 south J13 to J1A 63% Saturday 26 Nov 2022
I680 north J8 to J50 62% Wednesday, 11/23/22
US101 north J439 to J451 32%
Seattle I5 south J142B to J133 86% Wednesday, 11/23/22
I5 south J182 to J164 62%
I405 south J18 to J6 59%
I405 north J2 to J9 32%
I5 north J168B to J182 30%
Washington DC I95 south J170A to J160 85% Sunday, 11/27/22
I495 anticlockwise J27 to J45 51% Wednesday, 11/23/22
I95 north J170A to J22A 32%
I270 north J1 to J32 32%
I95 south J29B to J15 24%


Share this Article

Subscribe for Daily Updates

Invalid email address
Send this to a friend