Millions Expected to Travel over Thanksgiving Holiday

Traffic forecast to be busiest on Wednesday afternoon so expect delays

If your holiday plans include a trip, you should expect to have lots of company, regardless of how you travel.

AAA says more than 55 million Americans plan to travel 50 miles or more this Thanksgiving, including nearly 2.9 million Floridians.

According to AAA, 2019 will have the second-highest number of holiday travelers since the Auto Club began tracking in 2000. The most was in 2005. About 1.6 million more Americans, including 85,258 Floridians, are expected to travel this year compared to last.

“Strong economic fundamentals are motivating Americans to travel this Thanksgiving in near-record numbers,” said Mark Jenkins, spokesman, AAA – The Auto Club Group in a press release. “Consumer spending remains strong thanks to increased wages, disposable income, and household wealth. It also helps that gas prices have remained low during the past month, as Floridians finalized their travel plans.”

Most will travel by car, about 49 million nationwide with 2.6 million of them from Florida. Another 4.45 million will fly, including 210,456 Floridians. Another 1.5 million will travel by train, bus or cruise ship.

AAA says flying the Monday before the Thanksgiving travel rush is the best option. Travelers are likely to find the lowest average ticket price (about $486) prior to the holiday. Monday is a lighter travel day than later in the week. Travelers also can save by traveling on Thanksgiving Day, which has the week’s lowest average price per ticket, about $454.

Those traveling by car should know that Wednesday afternoon is likely be the busiest with holiday travelers and commuters sharing the roadways.

“With record levels of travelers, and persistent population growth in the country’s major metropolitan areas, drivers must prepare for major delays,” said Trevor Reed, transportation analyst at INRIX. “Although travel times will peak on Wednesday afternoon, drivers should expect much heavier than normal congestion throughout the week.”

In Florida, the heaviest highway congestion is expected on Wednesday from 3-8 p.m., Jenkins said.

“AAA recommends drivers plan ahead, identify alternate routes in case there are back-ups, and leave early,” Jenkins said. “Driving on Thanksgiving Day may not be ideal, but there are much fewer people on the road.”

Floridians also should know that the state has four of the top 10 destinations on travelers’ escape list this year. Orlando is No. 1 with Fort Lauderdale at No. 6, Tampa at No. 7 and Miami at No. 10.

Gas prices and rental cars

Gas prices will likely be about the same as last year. The national average for a gallon of regular gasoline on Nov. 21 was $2.59, about 1 cent less than the same date in 2018. Floridians were paying $2.37 a gallon, about 10 cents less than last year. Motorists in the Tampa-St. Petersburg-Clearwater area were paying $2.29, about the same as 2018.

However, while motorists may save at the gas pumps, those planning to rent a car will have to pay more. AAA says rental car prices are the highest since 1999, about $75 a day.

Roadway safety

Florida Highway Patrol’s Holiday Safety Campaign continues through the end of the year. The goal is for all motorists to “Arrive Alive” to their destinations. Local law enforcement is participating.

“The holiday season is a time for families to gather and celebrate,” said Pinellas County Sheriff Bob Gualtieri.

Gualtieri and other Florida sheriffs are asking residents and visitors to drive safely to prevent tragedy during “this special season.”

In 2018, there were 9,896 crashes on the state’s roadways during the Thanksgiving holiday period, resulting in 79 fatalities.

FHP offers some tips to help ensure everyone “Arrives Alive” this Thanksgiving:

• Never drive impaired. Celebrate responsibly and do not get behind the wheel if you have been drinking or have taken drugs that cause impairment. Plan ahead and find a safe way home every time. Designate a driver or use a ride service.

• Check your tires. Tires are a vehicle’s first line of defense on the road. Check your tire pressure, tread depth and spare tire especially before long trips. Do not over load your vehicle, it can result in premature wear and tire blowouts.

• Buckle up. A seat belt is your vehicle’s most important safety feature. Florida law requires that all drivers, all front seat passengers and all passengers under the age of 18 wear seat belts or the appropriate child restraints. Seat belts save lives, so buckle up every trip, every time.

• Register or update your Emergency Contact Information. ECI is a secure system allowing law enforcement, nationwide, to contact designated family or friends in response to an emergency. Visit and click on the Driver Licenses & ID Cards heading.

• Observe and obey all speed limits. Speed limits may change as you drive through different types of roadways, so make sure you adjust your speed accordingly. In Florida, the limit will never be over 70 mph.

• Call *FHP (*347) to report intoxicated or aggressive drivers, or if your vehicle breaks down and you need assistance. To request immediate emergency services, dial 911.