Home California AAA Predicts Thanksgiving Travel to Rebound to Near Pre-Pandemic Levels

AAA Predicts Thanksgiving Travel to Rebound to Near Pre-Pandemic Levels

by ECT

WALNUT CREEK, Calif.– Pack your patience! Airports and roads may be jam-packed this year as AAA predicts 53.4 million people will travel for the Thanksgiving holiday, up 13% from 2020. As restrictions continue to lift and consumer confidence builds, AAA urges travelers to be proactive when making their travel plans this holiday season.

“Travel volumes have recovered within 5% of pre-pandemic levels, and air travel has almost entirely recovered from its dramatic decline during, up 80% over last year,” said Sergio Avila, spokesperson for AAA Northern California. “Those traveling this Thanksgiving can expect to face more crowded roads and airports than they’ve seen in some time.”

In California, just over seven million people are expected to travel. A 14% increase over last year, but still slightly below Thanksgiving of 2019.

2021 Thanksgiving Holiday Travelers
TotalAutomobileAir(Bus, Train, Cruise)
2021 (Forecast)53.4M48.3M4.2M1M
2020 (Actual)47.1M44.5M2.3M281,000
2019 (Actual)56M49.9M4.6M1.5M
Change (2019 to 2021)−5%−3%−9%−31%
Change (2020 to 2021)+13%+8%+80%+262%


With 6.4 million more people traveling this Thanksgiving coupled with the recent opening of the U.S. borders to fully vaccinated international travelers—people should prepare for roads and airports to be noticeably more crowded.

Navigating the New Travel Landscape
Whether you plan to do so by car or plane, it’s important to know how to navigate the new travel landscape to avoid unnecessary stress and challenges on the way to your Thanksgiving destination:

  • Be Proactive. Book flights, car rentals, accommodations and other activities as early as possible.
  • Be Patient. The roads and airports will be busy so plan ahead. For domestic air travel, AAA suggests arriving at the airport 2 hours ahead of departure time and 3 hours for international. Wednesday afternoon will be the busiest on the roads.
  • Be Prepared. Make sure you and your vehicle are road trip ready. AAA expects to help over 400,000 Members over the Thanksgiving holiday weekend. Check out AAA Northern California’s Stress Less Checklist to prepare.
  • Be Protected. AAA’s COVID-19 Travel Restrictions Map and TripTik.AAA.com are helpful resources travelers may use for free to understand closures, recommendations and requirements when traveling in the U.S. Also ensure you have masks ready as they are still required in many locations.

Forecast Methodology:
In cooperation with AAA, IHS Markit—a world leader in critical information, analytics and expertise—developed a unique methodology to forecast actual domestic travel volumes. The economic variables used to forecast travel for the current holiday are leveraged from IHS Markit’s proprietary databases. These data include macroeconomic drivers such as employment, output, household net worth, asset prices including stock indices, interest rates, housing market indicators, and variables related to travel and tourism, including prices of gasoline, airline travel and hotel stays.

About AAA Northern California
AAA has a proud history of serving Members for over 100 years. AAA is on a mission to create Members for life by unleashing the innovative spirit of 4,600 employees representing 6 million Members across Northern California, Arizona, Utah, Nevada, Montana, Wyoming and Alaska. In addition to legendary roadside assistance, AAA offers home, auto and life insurance, travel and home security services. According to Via Magazine’s Smart Guide, being a AAA Member can save you more than $1,200 a year. Learn more at AAA.com.

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