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AAA: Thanksgiving 2022 projected to be the third-busiest for travel since 2000

AAA estimated that 54.6 million people will travel at least 50 miles to spend Thanksgiving with loved ones this year.

WASHINGTON D.C., DC — Millions of Americans travel during the holidays. Tanya Newman, a mother of three girls, grew up in Memphis and for the last 40 years, she’s been living in Knoxville. 

She said she has driven across the state for years, but this year she's staying home.  

“I've seen the traffic," Newton said. "Makes me glad that we're not going to be traveling. [Traffic] wouldn't stop me from traveling, but to not have to worry about that — I'm perfectly happy.”

Anyone planning to travel over the Thanksgiving weekend this year should plan ahead and leave early. AAA projected that this year would be the third-busiest ever since they started tracking in 2000.

“We're expecting things to get pretty busy on both on our roads and in the air,” said Megan Cooper, a spokesperson with AAA.

They predicted that 54.6 million people would travel at least 50 miles from home this holiday. The grand majority of those people are also expected to go by car — around 49 million people.

“Families and friends are eager to spend time together this Thanksgiving, one of the busiest for travel in the past two decades,” says Paula Twidale, AAA’s Senior Vice President of Travel. “Plan ahead and pack your patience, whether you’re driving or flying.”

Despite a large number of drivers this year, they said car travel is still below 2019 levels. 

Around 4.5 million Americans are expected to fly to their Thanksgiving destinations this year too, an increase of around 8% compared to 2021. It is almost matching 2019 levels.

"Airport parking spaces fill up fast, so reserve a spot ahead of time and arrive early,” Twidale said. “Anticipate long TSA lines. If possible, avoid checking a bag to allow for more flexibility if flights are delayed or you need to reschedule.”

AAA said that 2005 and 2019 were also the busiest years for Thanksgiving travel, respectively. They also said more Americans are choosing to travel by other methods, such as by bus, train or cruise ship.

They said around 1.4 million travelers are expected to go out of town using one of those methods of transportation — an increase of 23% increase from 2021.

Cooper said a key tip is to plan ahead and make sure you’re safe when driving long distances.

“It's important to get your car serviced,” David Weismuller, owner of ALL TUNE & LUBE Total Car Care said. "Good brakes, tires pumped up, tire rotation, oil change, make sure all the fluids are good.”

With the weather changing, Weismuller said it's also important for people to have a blanket in their car. Right now he said many drivers are visiting him to check if everything is fine.

"Changing the antifreeze in cars because it's gonna get cold and it could damage the motor if the mixture is not right," Weismuller said. 

As for gas prices, they've been fluctuating throughout the year. AAA said travelers might see some record-high prices during Thanksgiving and the only way to be prepared is to plan ahead and take advantage of any cheaper prices they meet along the road. 

“Try to fill up when you have about a quarter of a tank left on your road trip,” Couper said. 

“We are all ready just to relax,” Newman said. 

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