Thanksgiving Travel Projected to Be Busiest in Over a Decade — And NYC Is Set to Be Among Worst in the Country

Only two other cities are expected to match the misery those trying to get out of the city may experience at that time, a traffic analytics company says

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What to Know

  • Whether travelers are taking planes, trains or automobiles to their Thanksgiving destinations this year, one thing is certain: expect crowds
  • More than 55 million people could travel 50 miles or more for their holiday destination, which would be the highest volume since 2005
  • NYC may be among the worst cities in the U.S. for delays the Wednesday before, with delays expected to be 3.5 times worse than normal

Whether travelers are taking planes, trains or automobiles to get to their Thanksgiving destinations this year, one thing is certain: expect a crowded ride.

More than 55 million people are anticipated to travel 50 miles or more for their holiday destination, according to travel organization AAA. If that happens, the group says it would be the second-highest travel volume since they began tracking it almost 20 years ago.

Only the 59 million people who did some turkey traveling in 2005 would top this year, according to AAA. The predicted number would mark a nearly three percent (or 1.6 million people) increase from 2018.

Most are expected to drive to their destinations, with the worst time to travel anywhere in the country being the Wednesday afternoon before the holiday, traffic analytics company INRIX believes. Some trips involving major cities could take as much as four times as long, they expect.

More than 49 million of the travelers are predicted to drive, which would also be the most since 2005. The largest percentage increase will be those flying, where nearly 4.5 million are set to take to the skies — a 4.6 percent increase. Another 1.5 million will take other means, like trains, buses or cruise ships.

According to INRIX, New York Cities looks to be among the worst cities in the entire country in terms of delays for Wednesday, November 27 — the day before Thanksgiving, which is widely considered to be the busiest travel day of the year. Delays are expected to be 3.5 times worse than normal during the peak time, between 5:15 p.m. and 7:15 p.m., INRIX says.

Only Atlanta and Los Angeles are expected to match the misery those getting out of the city will be experiencing at that time, INRIX predicts. Boston, Houston and San Francisco are also forecast to see delays more than three times as bad as normal.

For those looking to avoid some of the airport delays and higher prices, AAA recommends flying the Monday before Thanksgiving. Data from the past three years indicates that day has the lowest average ticket price at $486, and is a lighter travel day overall.

An official with AAA said that the reason for the high number of travelers is an economy that is “essentially good for millions of Americans with extra disposable income,” which would spark the motivation for a holiday trip — whether it’s to see family or just get away to some warmer locales.

Nine of AAA’s top 10 most popular spots to getaway this holiday are located in warm weather spots like Florida, Hawaii, Arizona and Las Vegas. The only spot listed not in a traditionally warm area: New York City, which landed third on the list.

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