More Michiganders to travel this Thanksgiving weekend, AAA projects

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More Michiganders are expected to travel this Thanksgiving weekend than in recent years, according to industry expert projections.

AAA Auto Group estimates more than 1.7 million state residents will travel 50 miles or more during the extended holiday weekend. That would be an increase of 2.6%, or about 43,000 residents, compared to this time last year.

Travel projections suggest more Michiganders will travel by both ground and air, with a vast majority of residents driving to their destinations (87%). Increased traffic could mean highway congestion and arrival delays. So, experts suggest residents plan accordingly.

“Travel demand has been strong all year and that trend will continue with one of the busiest Thanksgivings on record,” Debbie Haas, vice president of travel for AAA, said in a prepared statement. “With more people taking to the roads, skies, rails and sea; travelers should expect congested roads and longer lines at transportation terminals. AAA encourages travelers to develop their plan now, leave early, and be courteous to others.”

If AAA’s projections prove correct, Michigan could have its busiest Thanksgiving weekend for air travel in more than 20 years. The expected 178,000 Michiganders planning to fly would be an 8.5% increase from 2022.

When it comes to the busiest travel days for the Thanksgiving holiday, AAA expects Tuesday and Wednesday to be most popular for flying out of the state, and Sunday and Monday to be most popular for return flights.

The busiest day on the roads should be Wednesday, with average travel times as high as 80% longer than normal in some metro areas, according to INRIX, a provider of transportation data. Experts recommend leaving in the morning or after 6 p.m. to avoid the heaviest traffic.

Road travel on Saturday or Sunday is best before noon, and worst between 3 p.m. and 5 p.m., according to INRIX.

“The day before Thanksgiving is notoriously one of the most congested days on our roadways. Travelers should be prepared for long delays, especially in and around major metros,” Bob Pishue, transportation analyst at INRIX, said in a prepared statement. “Knowing when and where congestion will build can help minimize holiday traffic frustrations. We advise drivers to use traffic apps, local (Department of Transportation) notifications, and 511 services for real-time updates.”

Unlike past years, Michigan’s weather forecast doesn’t appear too messy for the holiday weekend. The state may get some rain or light snow Tuesday, but it’s looking dry for Wednesday morning through most of Sunday, according to MLive Meteorologist Mark Torregrossa.

AAA’s travel estimates are determined using household survey information from travel data company DK Shifflet, in combination with economic variables compiled by the data firm S&P Global Market Intelligence.

Nationally, 55.4 million Americans are expected to travel for Thanksgiving. This would be the third-highest travel forecast since AAA began tracking holiday travel in 2000.

AAA offers additional road travel tips, including:

  • Get a full vehicle inspection before setting out on your trip.
  • Leave early and allow extra time for your trip.
  • Identify alternate routes in case you encounter congestion.
  • Avoid distractions while driving.
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