This will be the busiest Thanksgiving for travel in a decade, says AAA


Millions of Americans are expected to hit the highway this Thanksgiving holiday, swelling the number of vehicles on the road to levels not seen in 12 years, according to the American Automobile Association (AAA).

Buoyed mostly-affordable fuel prices and favorable economic conditions, more consumers will opt to travel this year than at any other point since 2005, the organization said.

Why more Americans will hit the road this Thanksgiving holiday

Thanksgiving kicks off the start of a busy holiday season, and more thankful Americans will travel to spend time with friends and family this year,” Bill Sutherland, AAA senior vice president, Travel and Publishing, said in a news release. “A strong economy and labor market are generating rising incomes and higher consumer confidence, fueling a strong year for the travel industry, which will continue into the holiday season.”

While we can expect more vehicles on the road, AAA says don’t necessarily expect them to be rental cars. Prices on rentals have risen 34% this year, which may encourage people to use their own rides. If you do plan to rent a vehicle, expect to pay around $70 a day, the average this year, according to AAA.

RELATED: 8 ways to avoid car rental ripoffs this holiday season

Here are 3 ways to save money while road-tripping

If you plan on hitting the road for the holiday, leaving anytime between Wednesday, November 22, and Sunday, November 26, here are some tips on saving money along the way.

  • Pack a lunch: If you’re going for the long haul on a one-day trip (no more than 10 hours on the road, OK?) it’s a good idea to pack a few snacks. Nothing too complicated and messy (no barbecue ribs and no ginormous tacos that spill into your lap), so as not to distract your driving. This will not only save you and your family some pretty nice cash, it will also save you time.
  • Bring a cooler: Nothing wastes time more than having to pull off the interstate and venture into some strange little town for a $2.99 Dasani. Bringing chilled water is a great idea, especially if there happens to be a traffic jam and you find yourself stuck in the middle of nowhere for an hour.
  • Don’t speed: The #1 way to save money on a road trip is to obey the traffic laws. Nothing stinks more than being pulled over and hearing those eight frightening words: “Do you know how fast you were going?” Trust us: The money you save on that ticket could be the difference between the cost of driving vs. flying.

AAA says that up to 45.5 million people — nearly 90% of all travelers — are planning on driving somewhere for Thanksgiving, a 3.2% increase over the previous year. 

Don’t want to drive? Travelers who opt for the friendly skies will pay the lowest on average in half a decade for a round-trip flight domestically, according to AAA. The average flight: $157, a 23% drop over last year.

Money expert Clark Howard says the optimum day and time to buy a flight has shifted in recent years. “The old advice of booking 42 days before your departure has shifted to 57 days before travel,” he writes. “Meanwhile, there’s always the question of what’s the best day to buy an airline ticket? Conventional wisdom held that it was Tuesday.”

Not so anymore, he says. Click here to find out the best time to book air travel.


RELATED: Clark’s secret to finding the cheapest flights possible

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