By Mia Ping-Chieh Chen
BU News Service
BOSTON — The number of people traveling in thanksgiving is reaching the highest peak since 2005, with 54.3 million journeying 50 miles or more, according to an analysis by the American Automobile Association (AAA). Travelers from Massachusetts are estimated to be 1.2 million, with more than a million of them driving to their destinations. It is the largest number of travelers for the thanksgiving holiday in 13 years.
Drivers in Boston may see one of the worst congestions in the country, says INRIX, an analytics company which cooperates with the AAA for a Thanksgiving travel forecast. The most congested period will be on Tuesday afternoon before thanksgiving, with nearly quadruple normal drive times. The worst spot is expected to be Interstate 495 south from Exit 41 to 33.
Nationwide, the majority of travelers —around 48.5 million—will hit the road, nearly 5 percent more than last year. INRIX predicts drivers will experience the greatest amount of congestion on Thanksgiving week during the early evening commute period.
“Thanksgiving is one of the busiest holidays for road trips and this year will be no different,” said Trevor Reed, a transportation analyst at INRIX. “Our advice to drivers is to avoid commuting times in major cities altogether, or plan alternative routes.”
In most cases, according to INRIX, the best days to travel will be on Thanksgiving Day, Friday and Saturday. Increased travel times on Sunday will be expected, as most travelers begin making their way home after the long weekend.
The gas price will not stop these travelers, even at the highest in four years. With a national average of $2.79 as of Nov. 1, the price is 31 cents more than a year ago.
“Motorists have become accustomed to this year’s more expensive gas prices and won’t let higher fuel costs deter them from taking Thanksgiving road trips,” AAA gas price expert Jeanette Casselano said in the report.
In addition, 4.27 million people will travel by air this year. Tuesday and Wednesday prior to Thanksgiving are usually the most popular air travel days and have the highest average price for roundtrip tickets, according to the report.
Travelers can expect long security lines and increased driving hours to the airports on the Thanksgiving holiday. INRIX predicts delays getting to the busiest airports in the nation could be as long as 90 minutes.
This year, many travelers seek iconic American cities, theme parks and other warm-weather destinations for Thanksgiving. Orlando, New York City and Anaheim are the top three destinations based on AAA’s online booking. Punta Cana, Dallas/Fort Worth and Miami are all gaining popularity as holiday spots compared to last year.
AAA expects to rescue nearly 360,000 motorists at the roadside this Thanksgiving. To ensure safety, the experts recommend drivers take their vehicles to a trusted repair facility to perform any needed maintenance before heading out.