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When to fly or drive ahead of Thanksgiving

Traffic clogged on State Street near Government Center.Lane Turner/Globe Staff

Maybe you’re hosting, or spending Thanksgiving just down the road. But if you’re traveling, expect a lot of company.

AAA projects that about 55.4 million people will travel more than 50 miles over the holiday, the third-highest total since 2000. It’s about 2.3 percent more than last year, when travel numbers began returning to pre-pandemic numbers, according to AAA.

“The feeling is people are willing to spend and travel now, as they feel good about themselves and their finances,” said Mark Schieldrop, a senior spokesperson for AAA. “Even if we’re not passing historical highs, we’re adding 1.3 million total travelers this year over last, which is significant.”


In some metro areas, traffic could be as much as 80 percent higher than usual on Wednesday, AAA said. Traveling early in the morning or after 6 p.m. is recommended.

Air travel is estimated to increase by more than 6 percent last year, with 4.7 million people flying, the highest total since 2005.

Air travel to Thanksgiving will be busiest and most expensive on Tuesday and Wednesday, with Sunday the busiest day for flying home. More than 1.5 million people are estimated to take a cruise, bus, or train, an 11 percent increase over last year.

“A big takeaway from the numbers is that we’re seeing growth in all segments, nipping at the heels of 2019 just four years after the start of the pandemic,” Schieldrop said.

On the roads, Tuesday is expected to be the worst travel day, according to the state Department of Transportation. Major delays are expected from 6 a.m. to 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. to 6 p.m. on Monday and Tuesday on all Interstates 90, 91, 93, 95, 495 and 24, the agency posted on X, formerly known as Twitter.

On Wednesday, delays are expected from 2 p.m. to 6 p.m. with some delays from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on major highways.


The agency recommends avoiding mid-day travel on Thanksgiving Day and driving in the early morning or at night is recommended on Friday and Saturday.

Amtrak is also expecting a busy travel weekend and is recommending that people book tickets as soon as possible. For Nov. 20 to Nov. 27, Amtrak is adding cars to existing trains and adding more service.

Talia Lissauer can be reached at talia.lissauer@globe.com. Follow her on Instgram @_ttphotos.