Ga., S.C. residents ready to travel again for Thanksgiving

Published: Nov. 11, 2021 at 2:21 PM EST
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AUGUSTA, Ga. (WRDW/WAGT) – AAA forecasts a strong rebound in holiday travelers, with Thanksgiving travel looking a lot like it did before the pandemic.

AAA predicts 53.4 million Americans will travel for the Thanksgiving holiday, up 13% from 2020. This brings travel volumes within 5% of pre-pandemic levels for the 2019 holiday. 

The gap is closing even faster in Georgia, with total travel figures only 3% below pre-pandemic levels. AAA predicts nearly 1.6 million Georgians will travel for Thanksgiving, a 12% rebound from the total number of travelers during the 2020 holiday.

AAA expects more than 750,000 people in South Carolina to travel, a 13% increase from 2020 and just 2 percent below pre-pandemic levels.

“Travel is once again high on the list for Americans who are ready to reunite with their loved ones for the holidays,” " said Debbie Haas, vice president of travel for AAA.

For Americans as a whole and Georgians, cars will be the most popular form of Thanksgiving travel.

Nationally, 48.4 million people are expected to travel by car, 4.2 million by air and 1 million by other means.

In Georgia, 1.5 million people are expected to travel by car, 108,567 by air and 18,219 by other means. In South Carolina, more than 53,000 people are expected to fly and 678,000 people are expected to drive.

Gas prices have risen over the past year, but travelers appear ready to absorb the cost.

The national average price of gas is $3.41, which is $1.31 per gallon higher than last year. According to AAA, fuel prices last hit this mark in September 2014.

Experts say demand for fuel remains strong, so the high prices aren’t having an impact on consumption.

“After such an unusual holiday travel year in 2020, it appears that higher gas prices will not be enough to deter Georgians from returning to the road for the holidays,” said Montrae Waiters, spokeswoman for AAA – The Auto Club Group. “Unfortunately, it appears these high gas prices will hang around through the holidays. So it’s likely that travelers will budget more for gasoline and less on things like shopping, lodging and dining out.”

With 6.3 million more Americans traveling this Thanksgiving — including 177,000 more Georgians — people should prepare for the roads to be noticeably more crowded than last year.

And if you’re traveling through Atlanta, take note that Interstate 85 South between Clairmont Road and Martin Luther King Drive will have its peak congestion from 1:30-3:30 p.m. the Wednesday before Thanksgiving — 340% over the normal level of traffic.

Although AAA predicts road travel to increase 8%, the most notable improvement this year is domestic air travel, which has almost completely recovered from its dramatic drop-off during the pandemic and is up 80% from last year.

“The reopening of the U.S. borders to international travelers means airports will be even busier than we’ve recently seen, so travelers must plan for longer lines and extra time for TSA checks,” Haas said.

Even with air travel seeing a boost this year, AAA finds the average lowest airfare is 27.3% lower than last year. Tuesday and Wednesday are still the most expensive and heaviest travel days with Monday being the lightest and least expensive.

Top U.S. Thanksgiving destinations

  • Orlando, Fla.
  • Anaheim, Calif.
  • Dallas/Fort Worth, Texas
  • Phoenix
  • Honolulu
  • Kahului, Maui, Hawaii
  • Atlanta
  • Tampa, Fla.
  • Fort Lauderdale, Fla.

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