By: John Townsend, AAA-Mid-Atlantic

Expect record getaway delays on area freeways on Thanksgiving Eve, INRIX warns

WASHINGTON, D. C.(Thursday, November 21, 2019)–– If it is true Thanksgiving Day is a holiday that is centered on faith, family, friends, food, and felicity, then it is the quintessential American holiday. To express their gratitude around the Thanksgiving table with their kith and kin across the miles and the years, nearly 1.35 million people living in and around Washington, D.C. will travel during the upcoming holiday period. They will venture 50 miles or more from their homes during the extended Thanksgiving holiday travel weekend.Surveys show95%of Americans will spend the holiday with family.

No wonder Thanksgiving is called “one of the most beloved American holidays.” All told, two out of every ten (22%) residents of the Washington metro area, which boasted a2018populace that is 6,249,950 strong, will travel more than 50 miles to celebrate Thanksgiving with friends and family.They will be spurred along by that thing called “hygge.” It is a Danish word for the “cozy feeling of relaxing with family and friends while having a delicious feast.” It is not just Washingtonians. Across the nation, greaterthan 55 million travelers are making plans to kick off the holiday season with a trip of 50 miles or more away from home this Thanksgiving. Nationally, and in the Washington, D.C. metro area, this will be the second-highest Thanksgiving travel volume since AAA began tracking in 2000, trailing only the record set in 2005.

“A combined total of nearly four million persons living in Virginia, Maryland and across the Washington Metro area will travel during the perennially busy Thanksgiving Day holiday travel period,” said John B. Townsend II, AAA Mid-Atlantic’s Manager of Public and Government Affairs. “Of that aggregation, nine out of ten area residents, or 92.3%, will be hitting the road. As a result, travel times will start to increase as early as the Sunday before Thanksgiving. The worst Thanksgiving getaway time on area freeways will fall on Thanksgiving Eve, that is to say, Wednesday, November 27, between the hours of 3 p.m. and 5 p.m. Even Thanksgiving Day itself will be heavily traveled. It will know no surcease until Monday afterward.”

Thanksgiving 2019 Travel Projections for the Washington Metro Area At-A-Glance

Total Travel & PercentageAutomobile Travel & PercentageAir Travel & PercentageOther Modes OfTravel & Percentage
1,345,600 Washington Metro residentsUp 2.2% from 1,316,600 people in 2018.1,221,000 area residents(91% of all travelers)Up 2.1% from 1,195,500 in 2018.99,100 area residents(7% of travelers)Up 3.5% from 95,800 in 2018.25,500 area residents(2% of travelers)Up 0.8% from 25,300 in 2018.

“The increase in the number of area residents taking to the roads, air and other modes of transport, this Thanksgiving mirrors the national trend,” Townsend continued. This Thanksgiving we will see the most Americans carving time out to visit family and friends since 2005. A strong economy and labor market are generating higher wages and more disposable income, enabling more confident consumers to spend on travel this holiday season.

“It is the first time Thanksgiving has been this late since2013.” This time around, the “T” is not just for “turkey” this Thanksgiving holiday season, even though more than46 million turkeyswill be consumed on Thanksgiving. It’s also for” travel,” in a very big way. In total, 3.9 million persons residing in Virginia, Maryland and the Washington metro area will travel more than 50 miles during the Thanksgiving holiday. Of that tally, over 3.6 million residents will embark on Thanksgiving road trips.

  • Via Roadways. A projected 1,221,000 Washington metro residents plan to travel to their Thanksgiving holiday destinations by automobiles, an increase of 2.1% from the 1,195,500 area residents who traveled by automobile over the Thanksgiving holiday in 2018. Travel by automobile is the planned mode of travel for 91% of Washington metro area travelers.
  • By Air.A projected 99,100 Washington area residents plan to fly to their Thanksgiving holiday destinations, which is an increase of 3.5% over the 95,800 people who flew in 2018. Air travel is the planned mode of travel for 7% of travelers.
  • Via Other Modes.The number of local residents traveling by trains, buses and other modes of transportation is forecast to increase by 0.8% to 25,500 persons in comparison to 25,300 in 2018.

Nationally, more than 55 million travelers are making plans to kick off the holiday season with a trip of 50 miles or more away from home this Thanksgiving. This will be the second-highest Thanksgiving travel volume since AAA began tracking in 2000, trailing only the record set in 2005. Overall, an additional 1.6 million more people will travel compared with last year, a 2.9% increase. The vast majority of holiday travelers will drive to their destinations and, INRIX, a global transportation analytics company, expects Wednesday afternoon to be the worst travel period nationally, with trips taking as much at four times longer than normal in major metros.

2019 National Thanksgiving Travel Forecast At-A-Glance

Total Travel & Percentage IncreaseAutomobile Travel & Percentage IncreaseAir Travel & Percentage IncreaseOther Modes OfTravel & Percentage Increase
55.2 million Americans Up 2.9% from 53.7 million people in 2018.49.3 million Americans(89% of all travelers)Up 2.8% from 47.9 million persons in 2018.4.4 million Americans (8% of all travelers)Up 4.6% from 4.2 million airline passengers in 2018.1.49 million Americans(3% of all travelers)Up 1.4% from 1.46 million people in 2018.
  • Automobiles: 49.3 million travelers will hit the road this Thanksgiving, the most since 2005 and 2.8% more than last year.
  • Planes: With 4.6% growth, air travel will see the biggest increase in travel volume during the Thanksgiving holiday, with 4.45 million Americans expected to fly.
  • Trains, Buses, and Cruise Ships: Travel by other modes will reach 1.49 million, a slight increase of 1.4% from 2018.

Nothing Worse Than Wednesday: Times NOT To Be On The Road

Holiday travelers hailing from the Washington metro area will experience the “multiplier effect” on area freeways during their getaways which take them 50 miles or farther down the road.“The worst of the worst travel delays on area freeways will unfold on Thanksgiving Eve,” said Townsend. “Trip times will treble, motorists will encounter travel delays almost three times longer than the normal delays – if there is such a thing around here – during the afternoon rush hours on any given Wednesday. Some parents with children in school can’t hit the roads until theThanksgiving breakbegins or ‘early release dayfor students’ occurs. Be a smart traveler and avoid the holiday bottlenecks and back-ups. ” For the 49.3 million Americans traveling by automobile, INRIX, in collaboration with AAA, predicts major delays throughout the week, peaking Wednesday with trips taking as much four times longer as commuters mix with travelers.

“With record levels of travelers, and persistent population growth in the country’s major metropolitan areas, drivers must prepare for major delays,” said Trevor Reed, transportation analyst at INRIX. “Although travel times will peak on Wednesday afternoon nationally, travelers should expect much heavier than normal congestion throughout the week.”

AAA suggests motorists travel during off-peak times – early morning and/or later in the evening. Avoid afternoon and early evening travel the Wednesday before Thanksgiving; same for the Sunday after Thanksgiving.

Metro AreaWorst Time Wednesday, Nov. 27Delay Multiplier
Atlanta5:30-7:30 PM3.5x
Los Angeles5:00-7:00 PM3.5x
New York5:15-7:15 PM3.5x
Boston4:30-6:30 PM3.4x
Houston5:00-7:00 PM3.4x
San Francisco2:00-4:00 PM3.2x
Washington DC3:00-5:00 PM2.8x
Seattle4:00-6:00 PM2.7x
Detroit5:15-7:15 PM2.6x
Chicago4:15-6:15 PM2.4x

Source: INRIX

Lower Gas Prices Fuel Road Trips

For the majority of Americans, AAA expects gas prices to be fairly similar to last year’s Thanksgiving holiday, which averaged $2.57. As of Wednesday, the national average price for gasoline was $2.59 per gallon, two cents more than the average price on Thanksgiving last year ($2.57). The average in Washington, D.C. was $2.68, 14 cents lower than last year’s holiday average of $2.82 per gallon while in the metro area, the average was $2.48, seven cents lower than last year’s holiday average of $2.55 per gallon.

Distracted Driving – “Don’t Drive Intexticated”

As near-record numbers of holiday travelers hit the road in the coming days, AAA Mid-Atlantic urges motorists – “Don’t Drive Intexticated.” Launched in April of this year, AAA’s ‘Don’t Drive Intoxicated – Don’t Drive Intexticated’ campaign is even more important during the hustle and bustle of the holiday season.

With more motorists on the roadways and maneuvering crowded parking lots, it is critical to remove all distractions from behind the wheel, especially mobile phones.The campaign targets drivers who would never consider getting behind the wheel after drinking an alcoholic beverage and, yet, will use a mobile device while driving, dangerously taking their eyes and minds off the road. Motorists can pledge to not drive distracted

Slow Down, Move Over;AAA To Rescue More Than 368,000, Nearly 14,800 Motorists In Washington, D.C., Maryland And Virginia

  • AAA expects to rescue more than 368,000 motorists this Thanksgiving weekend, with the primary reasons being lockouts, flat tires and battery-related issues.
  • Last Thanksgiving (Nov. 21 – 25), AAA Mid-Atlantic rescued nearly 1,000 motorists in Washington, D.C., nearly 8,100 in Maryland and over 5,700 in Virginia.
  • AAA reminds motorists toSlow Down, (and) Move Overfor stopped first responders and disabled vehicles at the roadside, including tow trucks.
  • While all 50 states haveSlow Down, Move Overlaws, an average of 23 tow operators are killed doing their job to help stranded motorists on the roadside each year.

Travel Tip For The Friendly Skies: Fly Monday Before Thanksgiving

Arecent analysisof AAA’s flight booking data from the last three years revealed that flying the Monday before the Thanksgiving travel rush is the best option for travelers. It has the lowest average ticket price ($486) prior to the holiday and is a lighter travel day than later in the week. Travelers can also save by traveling on Thanksgiving Day, which has the week’s lowest average price per ticket ($454).

Washington, D.C. Metro Area Car Rental and Hotel Prices Increase

Travelers in the Washington, D.C. metro area can expect to save on car rentals this Thanksgiving holiday season. At $93, the average daily rate is 51% higher than last year, according to AAA’s Leisure Travel Index. The average rate for AAA Three Diamond hotels increased by 6% over 2018 with an average nightly rate of $125. The average rate for AAA Two Diamond hotels has increased by 5% with an average nightly cost of $104.

Historically, “Thanksgiving Day is a more heavily traveled day then Wednesday,” explains the United States Bureau of Transportation Statistics (BTS).“Among those traveling more than 100 miles, travel is evenly spread throughout the Wednesday-Sunday period, with no statistically significant difference among the traffic flows during those five days.”


AAA’s projections are based on economic forecasting and research by IHS Markit, a London-based business information provider. For the purposes of this forecast, the Thanksgiving holiday travel period is defined as the five-day period from Wednesday, Nov. 27 to Sunday, Dec. 1.

In cooperation with AAA, IHS Markit developed a unique methodology to forecast actual domestic travel volumes, using macroeconomic drivers such as employment; output; household net worth; asset prices including stock indices; interest rates; housing market indicators and variables related to travel and tourism, including prices of gasoline, airline travel and hotel stays.

About INRIX:
INRIX is the global leader in connected car services and transportation analytics. Leveraging big data and the cloud, INRIX delivers comprehensive services and solutions to help move people, cities and businesses forward. Our partners are automakers, governments, mobile operators, developers, advertisers, as well as enterprises large and small.

David M. Higgins II, Publisher/Editor

David M. Higgins was born in Baltimore and grew up in Southern Maryland. He has had a passion for journalism since high school. After spending many years in the Hospitality Industry he began working in...