Pack your patience: More NJ residents to travel this Thanksgiving
By now most people are aware that the five-day Thanksgiving Day holiday weekend is the busiest travel period of the year, and this year is no different.
AAA is projecting that almost 1.5 million New Jersey residents will travel 50 miles or more over the Thanksgiving holiday weekend, an increase of almost 2% over last year, and reminiscent of pre-pandemic holiday travel, said Tracy Noble, spokeswoman for AAA MidAtlantic.
Nationally, AAA predicts 54.6 million will travel this holiday weekend, a 1.5% increase over 2021, and 98% of pre-pandemic volumes.
How will New Jerseyans travel?
As expected, almost 90% of New Jerseyans or more than 1.3 million of them will be driving to their holiday destinations, Noble said. That is just shy of pre-pandemic levels, and the third-highest number since AAA has been keeping records.
“Across New Jersey, gas prices are trending about 30 to 40 cents more than last year, however, most travelers do not appear fazed,” she said.
Going into the holiday weekend, New Jersey’s gas average is $3.80 per gallon, down one cent overnight. But it is about 20 cents higher than it was this time last year, Noble said.
AAA is also projecting that 140,000 Garden State residents will take to the skies for the long holiday weekend, a jump of more than 8% over last year.
“So, we are seeing people return to their comfort level of traveling using mass transportation,” Noble said.
Other modes of transportation are also seeing the biggest jump for Thanksgiving holiday travel, she said.
Almost 28,000 New Jerseyans will be going by bus, cruise, train, or a combination of some this year. That’s an increase of 21% in New Jersey, Noble added.
Is travel back to pre-pandemic levels?
“We are just shy of those pre-pandemic levels. We are 96% of where we were in 2019 so things are coming back,” Noble said.
Despite rising gas prices this year and other expenses across the board, people still want to travel for Thanksgiving because they want to be with friends and family, she said.
When are the best and worst times to travel?
The best time to travel this holiday weekend is on Wednesday, Nov. 23 either very early before 8 a.m. or later in the evening, after 8 p.m., she said. The worst time to travel on that day is between 11 a.m. and 8 p.m. Most people take the day off and hit the road early on Wednesday.
If you’re staying local and are only traveling on Thanksgiving Day, Noble said the best time to travel on Thursday is before 11 a.m. or after 6 p.m. The peak travel time will be between 11 a.m. and 3 p.m.
When traveling home, most likely on Sunday, Nov. 27, Noble said to avoid travel between 4 p.m. and 8 p.m. Those are the peak travel hours. It’s best to travel before 11 a.m. and after 8 p.m. to avoid traffic.
The roads are going to be crowded, so be safe, pack your patience, eliminate distractions, wear seatbelts, designate a driver for the trip, and don’t get behind the wheel if you’ve been drinking, she said.
“Plan ahead and be prepared for backups and delays whether you’re driving or flying as the roads and airports are expected to both be busy this Thanksgiving season,” Noble said.
Also, if you see breakdowns on the side of the road, as well as police, EMS, and/or firetrucks, do your best to move over and let them safely do their jobs so they can return to their families, she added.