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AAA: 1.3 million Tennesseans Expected to Travel over Thanksgiving Weekend

AAA projects more than 1.3 million Tennesseans will travel 50 miles or more during the Thanksgiving holiday travel period*. This year’s forecast is the second highest on record, with an expected 31,000 (2.4%) more holiday travelers than last year.

“Travel demand has been strong all year and that trend will continue with one of the busiest Thanksgivings on record,” said Debbie Haas, Vice President of Travel for AAA – The Auto Club Group. “With more people taking to the roads, skies, rails and sea; travelers should expect congested roads and longer lines at transportation terminals. AAA encourages travelers to develop their plan now, leave early, and be courteous to others.”

Tennessee Thanksgiving Travel Forecast
 TotalAutoAirOther
2023 (forecast)1.30 million1.25 million39,67612,149
20221.27 million1.22 million37,63411,061
20211.25 million1.20 million35,9919,127

Auto Travel is the Highest on Record in Tennessee

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Most Thanksgiving travelers will drive to their destinations. AAA predicts 1.2 million Tennesseans will take a road trip of 50 miles or more. That’s over 28,000 more Tennessee drivers (+2.3%) than last year.

Gas Prices Should Remain Lower Than Last Year

Thanksgiving road trips should be less costly at the gas pump this year. Despite global tensions causing ripples through the oil market, strong domestic gasoline supplies are causing pump prices to drop. Last Thanksgiving, the national average price for gasoline was $3.58 per gallon, while the state average was $3.16. On Sunday (11/12), Tennessee drivers paid an average price of $2.96. AAA believes gas prices should remain low through the holiday season unless oil prices suddenly spike. Visit https://gasprices.aaa.com/ to view updated gas price averages.

Air Travel Approaches Pre-Pandemic Highs

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AAA expects over 39,000 Tennesseans to fly for Thanksgiving. That’s 2,000 (5.4%) more than 2022, and the highest air travel volume in 15 years.

Busiest Times to Fly

Tuesday and Wednesday before Thanksgiving are the busiest air travel days ahead of the holiday and the most expensive. While Sunday is typically the busiest day to return home, AAA data shows Monday is also a popular day to fly back after Thanksgiving.

Cruise, Bus, and Train Traffic Gains Ground

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The number of Tennesseans traveling by cruise, bus, and train over Thanksgiving is up nearly 10% over last year. AAA expects 12,000 travelers to head out of town using these other modes of transportation, which suffered a severe setback during the pandemic, but have rebounded nicely.

“The cruise industry, in particular, has made a remarkable comeback, and thrives during the holidays,” Haas added. “Holiday cruises are highly sought-after as a means for large families to travel together and visit multiple destinations without having to worry about the cooking and cleanup. For those looking to plan a 2024 vacation, this is also a great time to connect with a Travel Advisor, who can navigate the many options available to find the best fit.”

Best/Worst Times to Drive

INRIX, a provider of transportation data and insights, expects WednesdayNovember 22, to be the busiest day on the roads during the Thanksgiving holiday travel period, with average travel times as high as 80% longer than normal in some metro areas. INRIX recommends leaving in the morning or after 6 p.m. to avoid the heaviest holiday congestion.

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“The day before Thanksgiving is notoriously one of the most congested days on our roadways. Travelers should be prepared for long delays, especially in and around major metros,” said Bob Pishue, transportation analyst at INRIX. “Knowing when and where congestion will build can help minimize holiday traffic frustrations. We advise drivers to use traffic apps, local DOT notifications, and 511 services for real-time updates.”

Please note – the times listed below are for the time zone the metro is located in. For example, Atlanta routes = ET and Los Angeles routes = PT.

Overall Busiest Day to Drive
DateTimeCompared to Typical
Wednesday, Nov 222:00 – 6:00 PM11.44%
Best and Worst Times to Drive
DateWorst Travel TimeBest Travel Time
Wednesday, Nov222:00 – 6:00 PMBefore 11:00 AM
Thursday, Nov 2311:00 AM – 3:00 PMBefore 10:00 AM, After 5:00 PM
Friday, Nov 2412:00 – 4:00 PMBefore 11:00 AM, After 7:00 PM
Saturday, Nov 253:00 – 5:00 PMBefore 12:00 PM
Sunday, Nov 263:00 – 5:00 PMBefore 12:00 PM

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