CHARLOTTE, N.C. – AAA Carolinas predicts that close to 1.5 million North Carolinians and 732,000 South Carolinians will travel 50 miles or more for Thanksgiving this holiday season – the most since 2005. The Thanksgiving holiday travel period is defined as Wednesday, Nov. 21 to Sunday, Nov. 25.
Of those traveling, 90% will do so by motor vehicle. With the surplus of drivers on the roads, AAA urges motorists to drive with caution and be prepared for heavy traffic.
“Despite higher gas prices than last year, we expect Carolinians to hit the road in record numbers this Thanksgiving holiday to spend time with their family and friends,” said Dave Parsons, president and CEO of AAA Carolinas. “With Thanksgiving being the busiest travel weekend of the year, we want to remind families to take extra measures to ensure safety on the highways.”
Prices are up at the pump
Motorists can expect to pay the highest Thanksgiving prices in four years. However, we have seen prices steadily decrease throughout October and November across both states.
For daily updated gas prices, visit: https://gasprices.aaa.com
By the numbers
Automobiles: the vast majority of travelers – 1.36 million North Carolinians and 660,000 South Carolinians will hit the road this Thanksgiving, nearly 5 percent more than last year.
Planes: The largest growth in holiday travel is by air, at 5.4 percent, with 103,000 North Carolinians and 51,000 South Carolinians flying to their destinations.
Other modes (trains, cruises and buses): 42,000 North Carolinians will use other modes of transportation to arrive at their destination along with 21,000 South Carolinians.
Based on historical and recent travel trends, INRIX, in collaboration with AAA, predicts drivers will experience the greatest amount of congestion Thanksgiving week during the early evening commute period, with travel times starting to increase on Monday.
The most popular days to travel are the Wednesday before Thanksgiving and the Sunday after Thanksgiving. If possible, plan your travel around these days (Thanksgiving day is the best day to be on the roads).
Over the Thanksgiving holiday period in 2017, there were 2,746 crashes in North Carolina resulting in 1,213 injuries and 23 fatalities, which is unfortunately up from the year before.
Law enforcement will be out in full force during the holiday. The North Carolina State Highway Patrol will take part in the Thanksgiving 1-40 Challenge – a joint operation among seven other states along the 1-40 corridor. Starting November 21, troopers will be placed every 20 miles along the major interstate.
Thanksgiving eve has become a big night for binge drinking, as family and friends return home to reconnect for the holiday. Labeled “Blackout Wednesday,” many times the evening consists of over-drinking which can lead to drunk driving.
“Blackout Wednesday, also known as “Drinksgiving” rivals New Year’s Eve and St. Patrick’s Day,” said AAA Carolinas Traffic Safety Foundation President, Tiffany Wright. “With so many ride sharing services available such as Uber and Lyft, there is no excuse for getting behind the wheel after drinking alcohol.”
In order to stay safe on the roads late at night, AAA urges motorists to:
- Never drink and drive. Have a designated sober driver in place if you plan to drink.
- Utilize a ride sharing service such as Uber, Lyft, or a taxi.
- Stay off the roads the night before Thanksgiving if possible
AAA Carolinas offers simple holiday road survival tips for motorists
- Map your route in advance and be prepared for busy roads. If possible, consider leaving earlier or later to avoid heavy traffic.
- Don’t drive distracted. Put the phone away. Disconnect and Drive. Avoid behaviors such as eating, applying make-up and adjusting the navigation system.
- Keep valuables in the trunk or locked area.
- Have your roadside assistance contact information (eg:AAA) on hand in case an incident occurs on the road.
- Keep a cell phone and charger with you at all times, in case of emergency.
- Obey traffic safety laws: Wear your seatbelt. Don’t speed. Drive according to the weather and road conditions.
- With an increase in traffic, expect delays and incidents on the side of the road. Obey the Move Over Law.
- Be patient. Understand that everyone is in a hurry to get to their destination. Utilize turn signals, give drivers space and avoid road rage.
Best Times to Fly and Book Thanksgiving Flights
An analysis of AAA’s flight booking data from the last three years revealed that the Tuesday and Wednesday prior to Thanksgiving are usually the most popular air travel days and have the highest average price per roundtrip ticket. Meanwhile, Thanksgiving Day consistently has the lowest average price per ticket and is the lightest travel day. Travelers looking to save money this holiday season can fly the morning of the holiday and arrive just in time for Thanksgiving dinner.
Most travelers booked their flights for Thanksgiving between September 23 and October 25, paying an average ticket price of $478 roundtrip. Procrastinating travelers who still need to book their flights may find cheaper airfares, paying an average ticket price of $459 between now and November 15. However, last-minute flight availability will likely be very limited.
Car Rental Costs Fall, Hotel Prices Mixed
Travelers can expect to save on car rentals this Thanksgiving holiday season. At $63, the average daily rate is 10 percent less than last year, according to AAA’s Leisure Travel Index. Travelers can also save on AAA Three Diamond hotels, with an average nightly rate of $166, a decline of six percent compared to last year. Conversely, the average rate for AAA Two Diamond hotels has increased six percent with an average nightly cost of $124.
AAA will rescue thousands of motorists this Thanksgiving
Last year over the Thanksgiving holiday, AAA Carolinas rescued approximately 8,400 motorists, with the primary reasons being dead batteries, flat tires and lockouts. AAA recommends motorists ensure their vehicles are in peak operating condition by having it inspected by a trusted repair shop, such as an AAA Approved Auto Repair facility. Nearby locations can be found at AAA.com/Repair.
To estimate fuel costs, travelers can go to www.fuelcostcalculator.com to input starting city, destination, and the make and model of their car. The free AAA Mobile app for iPhone and Android devices uses GPS navigation to help travelers map a route, find updated gas prices, view nearby member discounts and access AAA Roadside Assistance.
Download the AAA Mobile app before a Thanksgiving getaway
Before setting out on a Thanksgiving trip, travelers should download the free AAA Mobile app for iPhone, iPad and Android. The app can help map a route, find lowest gas prices, access exclusive member discounts, make travel arrangements, request AAA roadside assistance, find AAA Approved Auto Repair facilities and more. Learn more at AAA.com/mobile.
For more seasonal traffic safety tips, please subscribe to our AAA Carolinas Foundation for Traffic Safety e-newsletter. By clicking the button below, you will be registered to receive an email each month with the latest information regarding traffic safety, including travel forecasts and automotive trends.
AAA Carolinas, an affiliate of the American Automobile Association, is a not-for-profit organization that serves more than 2.1 million member and the public with travel, automobile and insurance services while being an advocate for the safety and security of all travelers.