AAA Travel Tips / What to Expect If You're Traveling This Thanksgiving (2021)

What to Expect If You're Traveling This Thanksgiving (2021)
By AAA Travel Editor Katie Broome
November 09, 2021
Planning to hit the highway or take to the skies this Thanksgiving week? You’re not alone.
More than 53 million Americans are expected to travel during the November holiday this year, according to AAA’s 2021 Thanksgiving Holiday Travel Forecast released this week.
The forecast represents a near return to pre-pandemic levels for the Thanksgiving travel season — just 2.6 million travelers shy of numbers from 2019. And how are most travelers planning to get to Thanksgiving dinner this year?
By car — by far.
Traveling by car tops the list as the most popular way to travel this year, with more than 90 percent of all Thanksgiving travelers planning to hit the road to get from here to there. According to AAA, the number of estimated road trippers — 48.3 million Americans — represents an increase of 8.4 percent over numbers seen in 2020.
If you’re one of the millions of Americans planning to travel during Thanksgiving break, expect to face more crowds than you’ve seen in a while on roads and in airports.
Before you pack up the car, put on your stretchy pants and get ready to reunite with friends and family, keep these helpful travel tips in mind. Assis

The Best—and Worst—Times to Drive During Thanksgiving Week

Major metro areas will face the heaviest traffic congestion on the Wednesday before Thanksgiving, according to AAA’s Travel Forecast, with traffic at its peak from 1:30 to 6 p.m. as commuters leave work early and mix with travelers on the road. Metro areas like Atlanta, Chicago, Houston, Los Angeles and New York City are expected to have more than three times the delays.
To avoid slowdowns, aim to leave before noon on the day before Thanksgiving or on Thanksgiving Day, if your schedule allows.
The number of people road-tripping isn’t the only thing rising this year, as gas prices continue to climb to levels not seen since 2014. Plan to leave some extra room in your budget to offset the high prices at the pumps. AAA members can also save on gas by joining the Fuel Rewards at Shell program. Find out more details at

Best Time to Fly for Thanksgiving

The most expensive travel day to fly — and also the busiest — is the Tuesday before Thanksgiving. To avoid airport crowds and save money, schedule your departure for Monday if possible. It’s still recommended to arrive at the airport at least 2 hours before domestic flights and 3 hours before international departures, so plan your schedule accordingly. Visit the CDC website for the latest on proof of vaccination requirements and other safety information.
If you haven’t yet made your flight reservations, you may be able to snag the best airfares if you book about two weeks before Thanksgiving Day, though your flight choices may be limited if you wait for last-minute travel deals. Experts also recommend booking flights that leave early in the morning whenever possible, as the probability of facing delays and cancellations is generally lower the earlier you’re scheduled to depart.
However you plan to travel this holiday season, pack your patience and understanding as we all learn how to adjust to the new travel landscape and reconnect with loved ones near and far.

About AAA

AAA provides more than 62 million members with automotive, travel, insurance and financial services through its federation of 30 motor clubs and nearly 1,000 branch offices across North America. Since 1902, the not-for-profit, fully tax-paying AAA has been a leader and advocate for safe mobility. Drivers can request roadside assistance, identify nearby gas prices, locate discounts, book a hotel or map a route via the AAA Mobile app. To join, visit