Nov 21, 2023 - News

What to know about Thanksgiving travel in North Carolina and beyond

Illustration of a turkey pulling a suitcase.

Illustration: Allie Carl/Axios

If you're heading out of town for Thanksgiving this year, you're not alone: Nearly 1.6 million North Carolinians will be traveling 50 or more miles in the coming days, according to AAA.

Why it matters: The holiday will make for some record-busting traffic on the roadways and in airports.

  • Raleigh-Durham International Airport is projecting more than 286,000 people will travel through the airport during the Thanksgiving holiday, potentially besting the record set in 2019 by nearly 10%.
  • Sunday, Nov. 26, is expected to be the busiest day for RDU, airport officials said in a release.

By the numbers: Most North Carolinians traveling — around 90% — will do so by car, a record only surpassed by the 2005 Thanksgiving holiday weekend.

Zoom out: 55.4 million people across the country will travel 50 miles or more over Thanksgiving — the third highest number since AAA began tracking holiday travel in 2000, behind 2005 and 2019.

  • TSA is expecting to screen close to 3 million people on the Sunday after Thanksgiving, which would set a record as the highest number since the agency was founded 20 years ago, CNN reports.

The good news: Gas prices both statewide and in the Raleigh metro are at their lowest since last December, at around $3 per gallon, according to AAA.

  • Across the country, the cost of domestic hotel stays and car rentals have also decreased since last year, by 12% and 20% respectively.

The bad news: Domestic flight prices, meanwhile, have increased by around 5%.

Be smart: If you're hitting the road, the busiest day to drive will be Wednesday, between 2 and 6pm, according to AAA.

  • The best times to drive are in the morning (before 11 on Wednesday and Friday, before 10am on Thursday and before noon Saturday and Sunday), or after 5pm Thursday and after 7pm Friday.
  • Tuesday and Wednesday will be the busiest air travel days before Thanksgiving, and Sunday will be the busiest for those returning home.

Related: Here's how 10 minutes of mindfulness can help make or break a family vacation (NPR)


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