BALTIMORE, MD (November 16, 2021) – AAA is projecting that almost 1.1 million Marylanders will travel over the Thanksgiving holiday weekend, an increase of more than 12% over last year, but down more than seven percent below pre-pandemic Thanksgiving travelers in 2019, which was the second-highest travel volume on record for the holiday in Maryland.

As usual, the great majority of those travelers will be driving to their holiday destinations. AAA is projecting that 92% of travelers – nearly one million Marylanders – will be hitting the road, up over eight percent over last year, but still down more than five percent, compared to 2019’s pre-pandemic level.

The dramatic bounce back in travel compared to last year is consistent with the findings of a new AAA poll of Maryland residents. Only 10% feel traveling over the Thanksgiving holiday poses a ‘significant risk for COVID. This is in contrast to a similar poll last year where more than 43% felt holiday travel posed a ‘significant risk for COVID.

“Both the Thanksgiving travel projections and the results of AAA’s statewide poll tell the same story. Many Thanksgiving travelers see COVID in the rearview mirror and they are looking forward to returning to the pre-pandemic tradition of gathering with family and friends,” said Ragina C. Ali, Public and Government Affairs Manager at AAA Mid-Atlantic. “Travelers should expect – and plan for – both the roadways and airports to be as busy as ever.”

Air Travel Jumps Nearly 80%

AAA is projecting more than 71,500 Marylanders will take to the skies, a jump of more than 78% over last year, but still down more than 17% from the residents who flew over the Thanksgiving holiday in 2019.

Bus, Train, Other Modes Of Transportation Also Up

AAA is projecting that approximately 12,000 Maryland residents will travel by bus, train, or some other mode of transportation over the holiday weekend, a jump of more than 260% over last year when travel in a group setting was by far as low as it has been since AAA has been keeping a record. But, the 2021 numbers are still down 44% compared to 2019.

AAA defines the Thanksgiving holiday as the five-day period from Wednesday, November 24 – Sunday, November 28.

Thanksgiving Holiday Travel Across Maryland
 TotalAutomobileAirOther(Bus, Train, Cruise)
2021 (Forecast)1.1M990,26071, 51012,000
2020 (Actual)955,000911,56040,1003,330
2019 (Actual)1,157,7301,049,50086,68021,575
Change (2019 to 2021)?7.2%-5.6%-17.5%-44%
Change (2020 to 2021)+12.4%+8.6%+78.4%+260%

AAA’s National Travel Projections

The return of near pre-pandemic Thanksgiving travel for Maryland residents mirrors national trends. AAA predicts that 53.4 million people will travel for the Thanksgiving holiday, up 13% from 2020, with 90% (48.3 million) taking to the roads. While that is the biggest year-over-year bounce in Thanksgiving travel since 2005, nationwide, the overall travel volume still lags 2019 by about 5%.

Gas Prices

The national gas price average as of Monday, November 15, 2021, was $3.41 an increase of $1.29 over last year and the highest gas prices have been at this time of year since 2013. Maryland’s average yesterday was $3.35, $1.10 more than a year ago. “Historically, higher gas prices have not kept travelers home,” said Ali. “Instead, they adjust their budgets to spend less on other expenses such as meals or lodging,” said Ali. AAA’s poll of Maryland residents was consistent with past findings, as nearly 75% of those not driving for the holiday, said gas prices played no role in that decision.

No Holiday for AAA – Slow Down/Move Over

AAA Mid-Atlantic is expecting to rescue nearly 6,700 Members over the Thanksgiving holiday weekend in Maryland alone.  Drivers are reminded to always Slow Down and Move Over for AAA tow truck drivers, police, other emergency first responders, and the motorists they are assisting on the side of the road.

Schedule Vehicle Checkup to Minimize Risk of a Breakdown

Before any long trip, AAA suggests getting an inspection of your vehicle to check key components like the battery, fuel system, tires, brakes, and fluid levels. However, if your vehicle has been sitting idle these systems are particularly vulnerable to deteriorating especially without proper care or maintenance.

Whether you are traveling a distance or staying local, minimize the risk of spending precious time over your Thanksgiving holiday stranded along the roadside by making sure your vehicle is road-ready.

AAA Car Care, Insurance and Travel Centers across the region are offering FREE vehicle health inspections to ensure everyone gets to their holiday destinations without incident. Or, motorists can always find a AAA Approved Auto Repair facility nearby.

“In addition to responding to Members with flat tires, dead batteries, and mechanical issues, AAA will respond to hundreds of motorists throughout Maryland who have locked themselves out of their vehicles,” Ali added. “Holiday travel provides ample opportunity for distraction. AAA is urging everyone to slow down and pay attention so you can get where you are going safely and without incident.”

Roads Will Be Bustling

INRIX, in collaboration with AAA, predicts drivers will experience the worst congestion heading into the holiday weekend as commuters leave work early and mix with holiday travelers. Major metro areas across the U.S. could see more than double the delays versus typical drive times.

Daily Worst and Best Times to Travel
DayWorst TimeBest Time
Wednesday12:00 – 8:00PMAfter 9:00PM
Thursday12:00 – 3:00PMBefore 11:00AM
Friday1:00 – 4:00PMBefore 11:00AM
Saturday2:00 – 7:00PMBefore 12:00PM
Sunday1:00 – 7:00PMBefore 12:00PM
Source: INRIX

Forecast Methodology:

In cooperation with AAA, IHS Markit—a world leader in critical information, analytics, and expertise—developed a unique methodology to forecast actual domestic travel volumes. The economic variables used to forecast travel for the current holiday are leveraged from IHS Markit’s proprietary databases. These data include 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.

Historical travel volume estimates come from DK SHIFFLET’s TRAVEL PERFORMANCE/MonitorSM. The PERFORMANCE/MonitorSM is a comprehensive study measuring the travel behavior of U.S. residents. DK SHIFFLET contacts over 50,000 U.S. households each month to obtain detailed travel data, resulting in the unique ability to estimate visitor volume and spending, identify trends and forecast U.S. travel behavior—all after the trips have been taken. 

The travel forecast is reported in-person trips. In particular, AAA and IHS Markit forecast the total U.S. holiday travel volume and expected mode of transportation.

AAA Poll of Maryland Drivers

A Thanksgiving Holiday Travel survey of Maryland drivers was conducted by Public Policy Polling on behalf of AAA, November 4-5, 2021.  The margin of error is ±3.6%. 

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