Turkey Trot: Travelers Prepare to Make Thanksgiving Pilgrimage

Nationwide travel dips slightly, state travel remains unchanged

Phoenix, Nov. 20, 2013. There won’t be an increase in Thanksgiving travel this year, but the roads and skies will still be plenty stuffed, according to AAA’s annual travel forecast.

More than 856,000 Arizonans will travel over the Thanksgiving holiday, a figure that remains unchanged from last year. Nationwide, 43.4 million Americans will travel, a drop of 1.5 percent from the 44 million people who traveled last year, according to the full-service travel agency.  

“While we are not anticipating growth in Thanksgiving travel among Arizonans this year, we do believe that travel will be consistent with 2012 levels,” said Amy Moreno, senior travel manager for AAA Arizona. “As a travel source, we are forecasting the second-highest travel volume we’ve seen since the Great Recession both state and nationwide, which is good news for the travel industry.”


The table below illustrates projected 2013 Thanksgiving travel compared to 2012:

Thanksgiving 2013

Overall Travelers

Auto Travelers






Change from Last Year (Ariz.)

-0.1 percent

-0.2 percent

-0.5 percent

Total U.S.

43.4 million

38.9 million

3.1 million

Change from Last Year (U.S.)

-1.5 percent

-1.6 percent

-3.7 percent


The top three trends from AAA’s 2013 Thanksgiving forecast among Arizonans include:


  • Road-trippers ‘give thanks’ for lower pump prices. Almost nine out of 10 Arizona travelers will drive to their destination. With a current statewide average of $3.12, drivers will pay the lowest gas prices for the Thanksgiving holiday since 2010. Drivers can “gobble up” gas for less than $3 per gallon in several parts of the Valley.
  • Travelers ‘flock’ to the roads, skies on Wednesday, Sunday. Thanksgiving always falls on a Thursday, and many people are off work the Friday after. The majority of travelers will leave on Wednesday, Nov. 27 (37 percent) and return Sunday, Dec. 1 (33 percent).
  • ‘Gravy boat’ of guests boosts tourism output. Tourism output, which includes revenue generated from dining, entertainment and resort stays, is expected to rise 2.3 percent over last year in the Mountain region. It’s no surprise that Arizona is seeing one of the largest increases in the region – 3.3 percent –  as AAA Four and Five Diamond properties enter prime season.

“Arizona is expected to outperform the rest of the Mountain region as well as the nation,” Moreno said. “This is due to a stronger local economy that is boosting personal income of state residents.”

As a travel resource, AAA offers a variety of mobile travel tools. This includes AAA Mobile, a free app for Smartphone users. The app uses GPS navigation to help travelers map a route, locate nearby discounts, summon roadside assistance, find current gas prices and more. Travelers can learn more about this resource at AAA.com/mobile.

Research for Thanksgiving travel projections are derived from IHS Global Insight. The Thanksgiving travel period is defined as trips that include travel of 50 miles or more from Wednesday, Nov. 27, to Sunday, Dec. 1. AAA has been reporting on holiday travel trends for more than two decades. 


AAA is the largest leisure travel agency in North America. Visit AAA.com/Travel for more information.

AAA Arizona, the Arizona affiliate of AAA, provides automotive, insurance and travel services to more than 825,000 Arizona members. Annually, AAA’s Roadside Assistance responds to more than 450,000 calls for help on Arizona roadways. The auto club also provides discounts and financial services to AAA members. Since its founding in 1927, AAA Arizona has been a leading advocate for the safety and security of all travelers.