Thanksgiving weekend in 2017 is projected to bring out the highest number of American travelers since 2005.
According to a new report by the AAA, the Auto Club Group, more than 50.9 million Americans will travel at least 50 miles or more away from their homes for the holiday, a 3.3 percent increase since 2016 and the highest number overall in 12 years.
The study predicts that 2.6 million Floridians — a 3.2 percent increase from last year — will take part in the holiday trek.
“Thanksgiving kicks off the start of what will likely become the busiest holiday season in more than a decade,” said Vicky Evans, AAA’s assistant vice president of travel sales development. “A strong economy and labor market are generating rising incomes and higher consumer confidence. These factors should help fuel consumer spending and generate a strong finish for the travel industry this year.”
Most Floridians — 2.3 million of them — will choose to drive while nearly 200,000 plan to fly. Almost 54,000 will use options such as buses and cruises, the report stated.
The report showed that 2017 will be the ninth consecutive year of rising holiday travel.
AAA and research firm IHS Markit base their forecast on recent and predicted growth in the economy, consumer spending, household wealth and other measures.
Road trips will cost more, however.
In Florida, the average is $2.52, up from $2.14 for Thanksgiving in 2016. Nationally, the average is $2.52, up from $2.14 last year.
Car-rental rates also are higher than last year, and so are hotel rooms, according to AAA. But average airfares on the most popular routes within the U.S. will be the lowest in five years, the group said.
Separately, trade group Airlines for America expects the busiest air-travel day to be the Sunday after Thanksgiving, followed by the Wednesday before it.
Here are some tips from experts on how to handle the stress of traveling over the Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays:
- Apps like those from AAA and GasBuddy can help you avoid traffic snarls and find the cheapest gasoline.
- If you’re flying, take early flights. Lines at security checkpoints tend to be shorter in the early morning, and flight delays build during the day, which can lead to missed connecting flights in afternoon and evening hours.
- Summer Hull, who writes the Mommy Points travel blog, recommends checking the perks on your credit card. You might be entitled to free checked bags, a discount on in-flight food and drinks, lounge passes or other goodies.
- Kids 12 and under don’t need TSA Precheck to use the shorter lines if they’re with a parent who has Precheck.
- Safety experts advise buying a seat for babies and toddlers, but if you’ve got a “lap child” under 2 who is flying free, bring a birth certificate copy because airlines sometimes ask for proof of age.
- If you get bumped off an oversold flight or your flight is delayed excessively, know your rights to fair treatment and compensation. You can find them on the U.S. Department of Transportation website .
- Chris McGinnis, founder of the TravelSkills blog, suggests booking hotels around office parks, which tend to be very quiet and offer great rates because there are few business travelers during the holidays.
The Thanksgiving holiday travel period is defined as Wednesday, Nov. 22, to Sunday, Nov. 26.
Information from the Associated Press was used in this report.