AAA Forecasts a Busy Thanksgiving Travel Week

November 18, 2021

Last year’s Thanksgiving was an unusual one: with travel restrictions largely in place and mass vaccinations still months away, fewer people traveled home to see their families for the holiday. According to AAA, however, that will not be the case in 2021 as the transportation agency expects 6.4 million more people to travel than in 2020. Lifted restrictions as well as clearly defined safety procedures for air travel have made many Americans confident about taking a trip for Turkey Day, with an estimated 53.4 million people expected to travel. 

“This Thanksgiving, travel will look a lot different than last year,” said AAA Travel senior vice president Paula Twidale. “Now that the borders are open and new health and safety guidelines are in place, travel is once again high on the list for Americans who are ready to reunite with their loved ones for the holiday.” Of the more than 50 million people who will travel this year, 48.3 million will hit the road in their cars while 4.2 million more fly on planes. Another 1 million travelers will take trains, buses, or cruise ships either to celebrate at home or in more scenic locales. 

While the nation’s highways will be busier than normal all next week, AAA has singled out Wednesday as the day when drivers will encounter the most traffic. “Drivers around major metros must be prepared for significant delays, especially Wednesday afternoon,” said travel analyst Bob Pishue. In fact, big cities like Atlanta, Los Angeles, and Houston will likely see traffic triple in the middle of the week while congestion in New York is expected to quadruple. AAA predicts airports will be just as busy as roads, prompting the agency to advise travelers to arrive at least two hours ahead of their departure times for domestic flights. 


  1. How do increased rates of travel benefit businesses during holidays like Thanksgiving? 
  2. Do you think this year’s increased number of Thanksgiving travelers suggests that the economy is starting to recover from the pandemic? Why or why not?

Source: Jessica Pucket, “Traveling for Thanksgiving? Expect Congested Roads and Crowded Airports,” Conde Nast Traveler, November 16, 2021.