AAA: 1.1 million Wisconsinites expected to travel over Thanksgiving weekend
Holiday forecast is third highest in over 20 years
FOR THE MERRILL FOTO NEWS
MADISON – AAA projects more than 1.1 million Wisconsinites will travel 50 miles or more during the Thanksgiving holiday travel period. This year’s forecast is the third highest on record, with an expected 25,672 (2.4 percent) 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 over 961,000 Wisconsinites will take a road trip of 50 miles or more. That’s nearly 14,000 more Florida drivers (+2.4 percent) than last year.
Gas prices should remain lower 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 $3.23. Prices this November have averaged $3.14 in Wisconsin and have been steadily falling. AAA believes gas prices should remain low through the holiday season unless oil prices suddenly spike. Visit GasPrices.AAA.com to view updated gas price averages.
Air travel sets new record for Wisconsin
AAA expects over 113,515 Wisconsinites to fly for Thanksgiving. That’s over 8,700 (8.3 percent) more than 2022, which had also been a record-setting year.
Tuesday and Wednesday before Thanksgiving are the busiest air travel days ahead of the holiday and the most expensive. While Sunday is typically the busiest day to return home, AAA data shows Monday is also a popular day to fly back after Thanksgiving.
Cruise, bus, and train traffic gains ground
The number of Wisconsinites traveling by cruise, bus, and train over Thanksgiving is up nearly 11 percent over last year. AAA expects nearly 30,000 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.”
Best/worst times to drive
INRIX, a provider of transportation data and insights, expects Wednesday, Nov. 22, to be the busiest day on the roads during the Thanksgiving holiday travel period, with average travel times as high as 80 percent 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.”
Holiday booking prices
This holiday season, travelers are generally paying less for domestic trips compared to last year and more for international vacations. The one exception is airfare, which is slightly more expensive for domestic flights this season and a bit lower for international flights. Here’s a breakdown of average booking prices for November and December, according to AAA data:
The average price for a domestic flight is $681, up 5 percent from 2022.
The average price for an international flight is $1,231, down 5.7 percent from last year.
The average price for a domestic hotel stay is $598, down 12 percent from 2022.
The average price for an international hotel stay is $772, up 5 percent from last year.
The average price for a domestic rental car reservation is $590, down 20 percent from 2022.
The average price for an international rental car reservation is $696, up 9 percent from last year.
The average price for a domestic cruise is $1,507, down 12 percent compared to 2022.
The average price for an international cruise is $2,902, up 24 percent from last year.
The average price for a domestic tour is $1,058, down 15 percent compared to 2022.
The average price for an international tour is $1,208, up 21 percent from last year.
AAA’s road trip tips
Get a full vehicle inspection before setting out on your trip. Leave early and allow extra time to get to your destination, so you are not in a rush. Identify alternate routes in case you encounter congestion or road closures. Avoid distractions while driving. Program your GPS before your drive. Ensure everyone in the vehicle wears their seatbelt. Never drive impaired.
AAA’s air travel tips
Check-in early online. Monitor your flight status using your air carrier’s mobile app. Arrive 2-3 hours before scheduled departure. Pack medications and an extra set of clothes in your carry-on bag, just in case your flight is delayed or cancelled.
Book a flight that leaves early in the day. Flights in the afternoon and evening are more susceptible to delays and cancellations. Book a direct flight. Otherwise, build in extra time between connections, in case your first flight is delayed. Consider traveling on Thanksgiving Day. This could offer the best combination of availability and price.
“It’s not too late to purchase travel insurance, which can be extremely valuable for air travelers,” Haas said. “There are policies that can provide compensation for flight delays for as little as three hours. And if a flight is cancelled, passengers can receive compensation for covered out-of-pocket expenses.”
AAA reminds drivers to “Move Over”
With more people sharing the roads, the danger is multiplied for those on the roadside. AAA reminds motorists to slow down and move over for first responders, tow trucks, and any motorist with a disabled vehicle on the side of the road.
“We want to make sure all holiday travelers, tow truck drivers, and first responders make it home safely this Thanksgiving,” said Nick Jarmusz, director of public affairs for AAA – The Auto Club Group. “All drivers can help by moving over for flashing lights, whether it’s a tow truck or a disabled vehicle with its hazard lights on. Even if it adds a few minutes to your commute, that small gesture could save a life.”