Thanksgiving travel numbers back to pre-pandemic levels

Published: Nov. 23, 2022 at 4:07 PM EST
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HARRISONBURG, Va. (WHSV) - Wednesday marked one of the biggest travel days of the year as people headed to see family for Thanksgiving. AAA MidAtlantic reports that travel numbers are back to pre-pandemic levels.

AAA reports that 1.42 million Virginians are expected to travel for Thanksgiving this year which is up from last year and only six percent shy of 2019 numbers. It estimates that 54.6 million people will be traveling nationwide and 91 percent of them will be doing so on the road.

“Our forecast is predicting the third busiest Thanksgiving travel season since we started tracking back in 2000 so over the past 22 years this year would be the third busiest only behind 2005 and 2019,” said Morgan Dean, Public and Government Affairs Manager for AAA.

With holiday travel returning to pre-pandemic norms AAA has a number of tips to avoid backups and be safe on the roadways.

“Wait out until after 8 pm. That will let some of that evening rush hour clear and should make it easier on backups and delays out there. Not a guarantee because there’s gonna be a lot of people out on the roadways but waiting until later in the evening if you don’t mind driving in the dark may save you some headaches,” said Dean.

Dean said that it is also important for drivers to be prepared to sit in traffic jams.

“Packing some water, packing some snacks, packings some extra things to keep the kids’ attention, it could be games it could be extra downloaded movies on their tablets whatever it takes to keep that attention back in the back seat will make it easier for everybody in the car,” he said.

For road safety, Dean stressed the importance of wearing seat belts and eliminating distractions like cell phones.

“Looking away from the roadway for just two seconds doubles your risk of a crash that’s how dangerous it is even for just two seconds. When you’re on the roadway obey those speed limits and give yourself that extra following distance,” said Dean.

In a year where gas prices have been significantly high prices have been on the decline heading into the holiday. The average price of gas in Virginia on Wednesday was $3.39.

“We’re down eight cents over the past week, down 13 cents over the past month, we’re 14 cents higher than we were on this day in 2021 but those prices have gotten much closer here recently,” said Dean.

Dean said the drop in gas prices has likely got more people traveling for the holiday.

“For those that might’ve been really close to being over the budget with gas prices or concerned about it, lower prices going into Thanksgiving might have them saying ‘You know what, we didn’t do as much traveling this summer because it was so expensive let’s take that trip and go visit family this time’,” he said.

While Wednesday marked one of the year’s busiest travel days Dean said that the Sunday after Thanksgiving is actually the busiest as people head back home. He recommends anyone traveling on Sunday hit the road before 11 a.m. or after 8 p.m. if possible.