49 Million Americans Will Road Trip This Thanksgiving, 15 Million by RV

With Thanksgiving being less than a week away, it’s important to figure out your travel plans soon. If you’re traveling by car or RV, you’ll want to start gathering everything you need to hit the road.

Thanksgiving dinners take eighteen hours to prepare. They are consumed in twelve minutes. Half-times take twelve minutes. This is not coincidence.
—Erma Bombeck 

Thanksgiving 2022 falls on Thursday, November 24 this year. When planning your travel schedule, give yourself ample time to get to your destination during this historically busy travel time, and keep in mind any harsh weather that could potentially delay your plans. 

15.3 million Americans plan to travel in RVs between Thanksgiving and New Years this year. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Packing an emergency kit can come in handy in case you encounter an unscheduled stop in traffic or need to pull over because of car or RV problems. Items to pack include:

  • Extra bottled water
  • Snack foods
  • A flashlight and extra batteries
  • Blankets
  • Warm clothing
  • First aid kit
15.3 million Americans plan to travel in RVs between Thanksgiving and New Years this year. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Drivers and passengers also should remember prescription medications and items such as a cellphone charger in case of unexpected travel delays.

Getting adequate rest, buckling up, obeying speed limits, and never driving while impaired is behaviors that promote improved highway safety. Eighteen people were killed last year in a total of 15 fatal crashes on all Arizona roads including local streets over the Thanksgiving weekend.

Drivers also should check their vehicle before traveling, including tire pressure, engine belts and hoses, fluid levels and the condition of windshield wipers.

15.3 million Americans plan to travel in RVs between Thanksgiving and New Years this year. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

This Thanksgiving holiday, 54.6 million Americans are planning to travel 50 miles or more away from their homes, according to AAA. The amount is 1.5 percent more than travelers during last year’s Thanksgiving festivities and 98 percent of pre-pandemic volumes. AAA is predicting 2022 will be the third busiest year for Thanksgiving travel since AAA started tracking in 2000.

“Families and friends are eager to spend time together this Thanksgiving, one of the busiest for travel in the past two decades,” said Paula Twidale, AAA’s senior vice president of travel. “Plan ahead and pack your patience, whether driving or flying.”

AAA finds that most travelers will reach their destinations by car (or RV), similar to last year. Nearly 49 million people are expected to drive and while Thanksgiving road trips have increased slightly—up 0.4 percent from 2021—road travel remains 2.5 percent below 2019 levels.

15.3 million Americans plan to travel in RVs between Thanksgiving and New Years this year. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

INRIX expects severe congestion in several U.S. metro areas with some drivers experiencing more than double normal delays. Highways in and around Atlanta, Chicago, New York City, and Los Angeles will be the busiest. To avoid the most hectic times, INRIX recommends traveling early in the morning on Wednesday or before 11 a.m. on Thanksgiving Day and avoiding travel between 4 and 8 p.m. Friday, Saturday, and Sunday.

Air travel is up nearly 8 percent over 2021 with 4.5 million Americans flying to their Thanksgiving destinations this year. That’s an increase of more than 330,000 travelers and nearly 99 percent of the 2019 volume.

15.3 million Americans plan to travel in RVs between Thanksgiving and New Years this year. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Americans are also ramping up travel by other modes of transportation. More than 1.4 million travelers are going out of town for Thanksgiving by bus, train, or cruise ship. That’s an increase of 23 percent from 2021 and 96 percent of the 2019 volume. “With travel restrictions lifted and more people comfortable taking public transportation again, it’s no surprise buses, trains, and cruises are coming back in a big way,” Twidale adds. “Regardless of the mode of transportation you have chosen, expect crowds during your trip and at your destination. If your schedule is flexible, consider off-peak travel times during the holiday rush.”

Related article: Top 8 Tips for Planning a Road Trip this Thanksgiving and throughout the Holiday Season

A new survey of leisure travelers conducted by the RV Industry Association finds that 15.3 million Americans plan to travel in RVs between Thanksgiving and New Year’s this year. This represents 12 percent of the total number of leisure travelers intending to spend the holidays away from home and the impact of these RVers continues to be felt in the economies of the locations they visit.

15.3 million Americans plan to travel in RVs between Thanksgiving and New Years this year. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Increased spending on outdoor recreation—of which the RV industry is a centerpiece—was reaffirmed last week when the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis released its Outdoor Recreation Satellite Account (ORSA) report revealing that the sector contributed a record $862 billion to the U.S. economy and employed 4.5 million Americans in 2021. This represents an increase of 31 percent in gross output and 13 percent in jobs over 2020.

“These two studies demonstrate that the RV industry and its customers are vital contributors to America’s economy and all indications are that they will continue to be so,” said RV Industry Association Executive Vice President James Ashurst. “Growth in the industry is being increasingly driven by younger and more diverse RV buyers whose purchases are largely motivated by the desire to experience the great outdoors.”

15.3 million Americans plan to travel in RVs between Thanksgiving and New Years this year. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

According to the RV Industry Association’s travel intention study, 29 percent of Millennials and 20 percent of GenZ leisure travelers plan on staying in an RV over the holidays. Some of these will be driving to warm-weather campgrounds or mountain ski resorts while others will be parked outside their extended families’ homes over the holidays.

Related article: Thanksgiving Road Trip: See the Best of Arizona in these 8 Places

“Spending time with friends and family is an integral part of the holidays and we know that whether RVing together for a holiday vacation or traveling in your RV for a holiday visit, spending time with friends and family is a primary reason people are going RVing this holiday season,” said Ashurst.

15.3 million Americans plan to travel in RVs between Thanksgiving and New Years this year. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The survey also showed that finances are a driving reason for people’s plans to take an upcoming RV trip. With RV vacations costing 50 percent less than comparable hotel and plane ride trips and a third less than hotel and car ride trips, RVing is an attractive option for people looking for the freedom to travel while also controlling their travel expenses.

AAA recently revealed the top 10 domestic travel destinations for the Thanksgiving holiday. Two theme-park destinations top the list this year—Orlando and Anaheim—as they did in 2019 and 2021 while Chicago and Charlotte are new additions to the top 10.

15.3 million Americans plan to travel in RVs between Thanksgiving and New Years this year. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

“Thanksgiving is all about spending time with family and friends so it’s no surprise that theme park destinations top the list with entertainment and meals accessible within a resort,” said Twidale. “Chicago and Charlotte join Atlanta as hub cities for the three largest airlines—American, Delta, and United—and will see lots of activity this holiday season as airline routes and direct flights are limited, and staff shortage still exists.”

Average hotel booking costs are up 8 percent compared to 2021 but hotel prices in some cities like Las Vegas and Denver are lower this year.

15.3 million Americans plan to travel in RVs between Thanksgiving and New Years this year. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The top 10 destinations are:

  • Orlando
  • Anaheim
  • Las Vegas
  • New York City
  • Atlanta
  • Phoenix
  • Dallas/Fort Worth
  • Denver
  • Chicago
  • Charlotte 
15.3 million Americans plan to travel in RVs between Thanksgiving and New Years this year. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

According to IRI, big Thanksgiving celebrations are back this year with 76 percent of consumers reporting they plan to celebrate the holiday as they did before the COVID-19 pandemic. The average number of people at the Thanksgiving table will be close to eight and that number jumps to 9.8 for Gen Z and younger millennials (those under 32). The oldest consumers, seniors, and retirees anticipate six people at their tables.

Related article: Turkey Talk At Thanksgiving

While people are hosting larger meals, inflation is a top concern for consumers and 38 percent expect to pay more for groceries this year but intend to buy the same amount of food. IRI reports that traditional Thanksgiving meal items are estimated to cost 13.5 percent more than they did a year ago.

In response to high inflation, retailers are discounting holiday meal items including Pilot Flying J and Love’s Travel Stops.

15.3 million Americans plan to travel in RVs between Thanksgiving and New Years this year. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Overall, food and beverage costs were up 13.3 percent year over year in October. Additionally, this year could become the worst year ever of avian flu outbreaks for poultry, skyrocketing turkey prices. Wholesale turkey prices are at $1.79 a pound in October which is 40 cents higher than last year’s peak. (Walmart is keeping whole turkeys at $1 a pound.) IRI research shows pies and side dishes are up 19.6 percent and 18.8 percent, respectively.

Related article: Thanksgiving & Staying Safe

Worth Pondering…

Only in America do people trample others for sales exactly one day after being thankful for what they already have.

—Anon