Over 1.3 Million New Jerseyans Expected to Travel over Thanksgiving Holiday; Poll of New Jersey Drivers finds COVID concerns have dropped dramatically

AAA is projecting that almost 1.3 million New Jersey residents will travel over the Thanksgiving holiday weekend, an increase of almost 14% over last year – falling just shy of the record number of pre-pandemic Thanksgiving travelers in 2019.

As usual, the great majority of those travelers (90%) will be driving to their holiday destinations. AAA is projecting that almost 1.2 million New Jerseyans will be hitting the road, up almost 9% over last year.

The dramatic bounce back in travel compared to last year is consistent with the findings of a new AAA poll of New Jersey residents. Only 6% feel traveling over the Thanksgiving holiday poses a ‘significant’ risk for COVID. This in contrast to a similar poll last year where more than 34% felt holiday travel posed ‘significant’ risk for COVID.

“Both the Thanksgiving travel projections and the results of AAA’s statewide poll tell the same story. Thanksgiving travelers see COVID in the rear view mirror and they are looking forward to returning to the pre-pandemic tradition of gathering with family and friends,” said Tracy Noble, spokesperson for AAA Mid-Atlantic. “Travelers should expect – and plan for – both the roadways and airports to be as busy as ever.”

Air Travel Jumps More than 80%

AAA is projecting that approximately 116,000 New Jerseyans will take to the skies, a jump of almost 81% over last year, but still down 9% from the number of New Jerseyans who flew over the Thanksgiving holiday in 2019.

Bus, Train, other modes of transportation also up

AAA is projecting that 15,000 New Jersey residents will travel by bus, train or some other mode of transportation over the holiday weekend, a jump of 258% over last year when travel in a group setting was by far as low as it has been since AAA has been keeping record. But, the 2021 numbers are still almost 47% below 2019.

AAA defines the Thanksgiving holiday as the five-day period from Wednesday, November 24 – Sunday November 28.

Thanksgiving Holiday Travel across New Jersey 2021





(Bus, Train, Cruise)

2021 (Forecast)





2020 (Actual)





2019 (Actual)





Change (2019 to 2021)





Change (2020 to 2021)






AAA’s National Travel Projections

The return of New Jerseyans to near pre-pandemic Thanksgiving travel mirrors national trends.

AAA predicts that 53.4 million people will travel for the Thanksgiving holiday, up 13% from 2020, with 90% (48.3 million) taking to the roads. While that is the biggest year-over-year bounce in Thanksgiving travel since 2005, nationwide, the overall travel volume still lags 2019 by about 5%.

Gas Prices

The New Jersey gas price average as of Monday was $3.45, an increase of $1.24 over last year and the highest gas prices have been at this time of year since 2013. Historically, higher gas prices have not kept travelers home. Instead, they adjust their budgets to spend less on other expenses such as meals or lodging. But, AAA’s poll of New Jersey residents found that more than a third (35%) of those not driving a significant distance for the holiday, said that gas prices did play a role in that decision.

No Holiday for AAA – Slow Down/Move Over

AAA is expecting to rescue almost 6,000 Members over the Thanksgiving holiday weekend – just in New Jersey alone – and almost half of those calls will require a tow. Drivers are reminded to always Slow Down and Move Over for AAA tow truck drivers, other emergency first responders and the motorists they are assisting on the side of the road.

Schedule Vehicle Checkup to Minimize Risk of a Breakdown

Before any long trip, AAA suggests getting an inspection of your vehicle to check key components like the battery, fuel system, tires, brakes and fluid levels. However, if your vehicle has been sitting idle these systems are particularly vulnerable to deteriorating especially without proper care or maintenance.

Whether you are traveling a distance or staying local, minimize the risk of spending precious time over your Thanksgiving holiday stranded along the roadside by making sure your vehicle is road-ready.

AAA Car Care, Insurance and Travel centers in New Jersey are offering FREE vehicle health inspections to ensure everyone gets to their holiday destinations without incident. Or, motorists can always find a AAA Approved Auto Repair facility nearby.

“In addition to responding to Members with flat tires, dead batteries and mechanical issues, AAA will respond to hundreds of motorists in New Jersey who have locked themselves out of their vehicles,” Noble added. “Holiday travel provides ample opportunity for distraction. AAA is urging everyone to slow down and pay attention so you can get where you are going safely and without incident.”

Roads Will Be Bustling

INRIX, in collaboration with AAA, predicts drivers will experience the worst congestion heading into the holiday weekend as commuters leave work early and mix with holiday travelers. Major metro areas across the U.S. could see more than double the delays versus typical drive times.

Daily Worst and Best Times to Travel

Day Worst Time Best Time
Wednesday 12:00 – 8:00PM After 9:00PM
Thursday 12:00 – 3:00PM Before 11:00AM
Friday 1:00 – 4:00PM Before 11:00AM
Saturday 2:00 – 7:00PM Before 12:00PM
Sunday 1:00 – 7:00PM Before 12:00PM

Source: INRIX


Forecast Methodology:

In cooperation with AAA, IHS Markit—a world leader in critical information, analytics and expertise—developed a unique methodology to forecast actual domestic travel volumes. The economic variables used to forecast travel for the current holiday are leveraged from IHS Markit’s proprietary databases. These data include macroeconomic drivers such as employment, output, household net worth, asset prices including stock indices, interest rates, housing market indicators, and variables related to travel and tourism, including prices of gasoline, airline travel and hotel stays.

Historical travel volume estimates come from DK SHIFFLET’s TRAVEL PERFORMANCE/MonitorSM. The PERFORMANCE/MonitorSM is a comprehensive study measuring the travel behavior of U.S. residents. DK SHIFFLET contacts over 50,000 U.S. households each month to obtain detailed travel data, resulting in the unique ability to estimate visitor volume and spending, identify trends and forecast U.S. travel behavior—all after the trips have been taken.

The travel forecast is reported in-person trips. In particular, AAA and IHS Markit forecast the total U.S. holiday travel volume and expected mode of transportation.

AAA Poll of New Jersey Drivers

A Thanksgiving Holiday Travel survey of New Jersey drivers was conducted by Public Policy Polling on behalf of AAA, November 4-5, 2021.  The margin of error is ±3.2%.

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