Washington could top pre-pandemic Thanksgiving travel volumes in 2021

Nov 13, 2021, 6:36 AM
Thanksgiving travel...
Travelers wait in line for security screening at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport in Washington. (Photo by David Ryder/Getty Images)
(Photo by David Ryder/Getty Images)

Thanksgiving travel is expected to surge later this month as forecasts predict that Washington state will see travel volumes in excess of pre-pandemic levels.

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From Washington state alone, 1.4 million people are expected to travel for the Thanksgiving holiday, as the American Automobile Association (AAA) reports. As for the entire country, AAA says more than 50 million are expected to leave home for the holiday. Those numbers would represent a respective 16% and 13% increase over the prior year, and a 2% increase from 2019 in the state.

“This Thanksgiving, travel will look a lot different than last year,” said Kelly Just, spokesperson for AAA Washington, in a news release. “With borders reopened, plus new health and safety guidelines in place, travel is once again high on the list of Americans ready to reunite with their loved ones for the holiday.”

The majority of those Thanksgiving travelers (87%) are predicted to travel via car, even as the state experiences an uptick in gasoline prices that’s $1.10-$1.40 over a similar time last year.

That means congestion, and a lot of it. The majority of the state’s arterials will experience a two to three-and-a-half fold increase in peak hour commute times the day before the holiday on Wednesday, Nov. 24. Federal Way to Tacoma on I-5 South is expected to see a more than three fold increase in travel time the day of Thanksgiving.

AAA Washington suggests that holiday drivers would do best to hit the road after 9 p.m. the day prior, and before 11 a.m. on Thanksgiving day.

Air travel will likely see a substantial increase in volume over the year prior as well. Air travel is up 80% over last year, a trend that will undoubtedly continue into the holiday as AAA forecasts that 160,000 Washingtonians will take to the skies to reach their Thanksgiving destinations.

Luckily, Seattle-Tacoma International Airport now boasts a series of renovations in time for the holiday, including a reworked cell-phone parking lot with improved traffic flow as a well as an expanded, remodeled North terminal.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that all those eligible to receive a COVID-19 vaccine get their shot before gathering in multigenerational households to celebrate the holiday.

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Washington could top pre-pandemic Thanksgiving travel volumes in 2021