TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) — Buckle up! With just over a week until the 2022 Thanksgiving holiday, AAA predicts roughly 54.6 million Americans will take to the road, rail, and sky to travel at least 50 miles or more from home this year.
While that national figure remains just below pre-pandemic levels, AAA anticipates Florida to see its busiest travel day in nearly two decades.
The automobile association predicts more than 2.6 million travelers will take to the roads in Florida — That’s about 28,000 more travelers than last year’s holiday and roughly 41,000 more than in 2019.
“Travel is still roaring back from the pandemic,” said Debbie Haas, Vice President of Travel for AAA – The Auto Club Group. “While gas prices and other inflationary pressures weigh on budgets, travel remains a top priority for Americans.”
However, just because travel remains a top priority, that doesn’t mean your wallet won’t feel the pinch. Pump prices have trended higher in November and could set new record highs for the holiday.
In Florida, the highest daily average price for Thanksgiving was set in 2013, when the price for a gallon was $3.46. On Monday, Florida drivers paid 9 cents more than that record price at $3.55 per gallon. When compared to last year, drivers are paying a whole 20 cents higher.
However, AAA spokesman Mark Jenkins said higher gas prices don’t seem to be enough to stop people from traveling this year.
“We’ve found that when gas prices are high, travelers look to offset the added cost by staying in a less expensive hotel or spending less on shopping and dining out,” Jenkins said.
But travelers will have to hunt for deals this year as airfares and hotel costs are substantially higher than last year.
According to AAA, airfare costs are up 22% over last year. The lowest round trip airfare costs $166 in 2022 vs $135 in 2021. Hotel costs are also up — 17% more than in 2021. A mid-range AAA Three Diamond property costs $218 per night in 2022 vs $187 last year.
Despite all that, if you’re planning to hit the road for the holidays, leave early.
AAA says travelers should expect “much heavier” than normal congestion from Monday through Wednesday afternoon.
“Traffic will be lighter during the morning and late evening hours and on Thanksgiving Day,” AAA said.
Here’s a list of dates with their corresponding best and worst times for travel.