Thanksgiving travel ramping back up in US this year: What it costs 🦃

Where, how people are traveling for 2022 Thanksgiving holiday

LOS ANGELES, CA - NOVEMBER 25: A family passes through LAX Tom Bradley International Terminal on Thanksgiving eve as the coronavirus spike worsens and stay-at-home restrictions are increased on November 25, 2020 in West Hollywood, California. (Photo by David McNew/Getty Images) (David McNew, 2020 Getty Images)

The holiday spirit is in the air -- and soon, millions of Americans will be, too.

The number of Thanksgiving holiday travelers is expected to reach near pre-pandemic levels in the U.S. this year, with 2022 becoming the third-busiest Thanksgiving travel season since the year 2005.

After two years of slightly less holiday travel due to the pandemic, tens of millions of Americans will be on the road or in the clouds, on their way to visit loved ones (or take a vacation) next week.

With Thanksgiving travel ramping back up, wanted to take a look at just how many people are planning to travel and just how much it’ll cost them. Let’s break it down.

Looking back: Thanksgiving travel

Thanksgiving travel dipped in 2020 and 2021, largely due to the pandemic and its impact.

The year before the pandemic began, however, was the second-busiest Thanksgiving travel season in the U.S. in nearly two decades. About 56 million Americans traveled for the November holiday in 2019.

The busiest Thanksgiving travel season in the U.S. occurred in 2005, when a forecasted 58.6 million Americans traveled for the holiday.

Thanksgiving travel notably dropped in 2008 and had been steadily increasing since -- until dipping again in 2020.

Below is a graph that shows the annual approximate number of American travelers during Thanksgiving each year (in millions) from 2005-2021.

The number of travelers increased from 2020 to 2021, and is forecasted to increase again this year.

Looking ahead: Thanksgiving travel

This year is expected to be at least the third-busiest Thanksgiving travel season in the U.S. over the last two decades.

AAA projects that 54.6 million Americans will be traveling 50 or more miles from home this Thanksgiving holiday -- around a 1.5% increase from 2021. The number of Thanksgiving travelers is approaching 98% of pre-pandemic levels, AAA says.

According to the organization, most U.S. Thanksgiving travelers -- 89.1% -- say they will be hitting the road, traveling by car. About 8.3% of Americans say they will be traveling by air, and 2.6% say they will be traveling by a different mode of transportation, such as by train or bus.

It’s a good thing most people are planning to travel by car: AAA says airline schedules have reduced by about 20% this season. And the amount of Thanksgiving air travelers has increased by a forecasted 7.9% from 2021 to 2022.

Officials say air travelers should expect long security lines and crowded airports between Nov. 23-27.

Travel costs

With airlines reducing the number of flights offered, and with flights in higher demand, airline prices are higher this Thanksgiving season than they’ve been in the last five years.

According to data from Hopper, domestic flights are costing an average of $350 per ticket this November -- a number that includes both one-way and round-trip tickets. This price is up 43% from 2021, when costs were about $243 per ticket, and up 22% from 2019, which saw an average price of about $286.80 per ticket.

International airfare costs have also gone up a significant amount, 41%, in the last year, Hopper says. An international flight costs an average of $795 per ticket this Thanksgiving season.

Airline prices have jumped this year for a number of reasons, including the high cost of fuel brought on by Russia’s war in Ukraine, fewer flights being scheduled and a higher demand for those flights.

Traveling by car this Thanksgiving is likely much cheaper ... depending how far you have to go. Hopper economists say that American travelers will spend an average of $60 per day when traveling by car for the holiday.

Popular Thanksgiving destinations

Economists forecast that about 70%-80% of American Thanksgiving travelers are heading for domestic (U.S) destinations, while an estimated 25% are traveling internationally.

Here are the most popular domestic destinations for American travelers this Thanksgiving:

  1. New York City
  2. Orlando
  3. Los Angeles
  4. Seattle
  5. Phoenix
  6. Chicago
  7. Denver
  8. Dallas
  9. Tampa
  10. Washington, D.C.

Here are the most popular international destinations for American travelers this Thanksgiving:

  1. Dublin, Ireland
  2. Cancun, Mexico
  3. Doha, Qatar
  4. Madrid, Spain
  5. Manila, Philippines
  6. Lisbon, Portugal
  7. Paris, France
  8. Mexico City, Mexico
  9. London, United Kingdom
  10. San Juan, Puerto Rico

Are you traveling this Thanksgiving? If so, where are you headed? Let us know!

Previously on Data Drop:

About the Author:

Cassidy Johncox is a senior digital news editor covering stories across the spectrum, with a special focus on politics and community issues.