The latest forecasts indicate roads will feel like a typical Thanksgiving: Crowded. Busy. “This Thanksgiving, travel will look a lot different than last year,” says Paula Twidale, senior vice president of AAA Travel.
While air travel is way up, the vast majority will still travel by car over Thanksgiving says AAA, with 90% — that’s 48.3 million — expected to drive. Overall, AAA predicts Thanksgiving 2021 travel will rebound to near pre-pandemic levels, with 53.4 million Americans expected to travel for the holiday, a 13% increase from last year.
Travelers seem undeterred by gas prices that on average are up about $1.30 from last year and about $0.80 from 2019.
Airports will be busy, too. AAA spokesperson Andrew Gross said, “We’re telling people, look, you’re going to find lines at the airport. It’s just inevitable. So get there that old-fashioned at least two hours early. And if it’s an international flight, three hours early.”
Other studies concur. “We’re seeing a lot of people very much, you know, looking to travel and fly for Thanksgiving this year and make up for maybe staying at home last year,” says Vivek Pandya, lead analyst for Adobe Digital Insights, which tracks airline booking data. As of Nov. 7, bookings for Thanksgiving week were up 78% over last year, and even slightly ahead of 2019, up 3.2% from pre-pandemic levels.
“This holiday season, sweaters are nice but what people really want is a warm embrace from family or loved ones,” said Mike Daher, vice chair, U.S. transportation, hospitality and services at consultants Deloitte. “So they’re going to take to the skies and the roads to make that happen.” He also commented on work-related pandemic changes, “Workplace flexibility is going to drive more demand for airline and hotels this holiday season,” Daher said. “People are extending their trips by a few days … [and] choosing to work as part of their holiday trips.”
Based on a survey fielded Nov. 10-12, 2021, Destination Analysts reports: “Thanksgiving holiday looks to be a busy one—likely even exceeding 2019 travel levels. The percent of American travelers who say they plan to travel over the Thanksgiving Holiday has more than doubled compared to 2020—30.6% currently say they will versus 12.9% last year. This rate is even higher than in 2019, when 23.1% of American travelers reported taking a Thanksgiving holiday trip.”
Personal finance site Nerdwallet found that 43% of those surveyed “planned to put money towards travel during the holidays — up from just 20% last year. The average amount they plan to spend on air and hotels is $1,800,” reports CNBC.
MMGY Global is bullish, too. “We expect record travel for the holidays, another huge uptick for Spring Break and a surging demand from international, business and group markets staring in Q1,” said Clayton Reid, CEO.
His latest opinion piece runs through seven reasons for optimism: Holiday Travel and MMGY’s Bullish 2022 Forecast.