Get ready, Thanksgiving travel could reach record levels

Published: Nov. 20, 2023 at 9:33 PM CST
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PEORIA (25News Now) - According to national and state data, millions will leave home in search of friends, family, and some pumpkin pie.

AAA, which has been tracking holiday travel data since 2000, said this year will be the third-busiest in its 23-year history.

55.4 million people will leave home, the vast majority of them by car. Just under 5 million will travel by plane nationwide.

At Peoria International Airport, the parking lot was full Monday afternoon. Travelers have trickled in all weekend, and more will come from now until Wednesday. PIA expects around 12,000 passengers for the Thanksgiving holiday.

According to PIA, this year has exceeded its expectations for travel, meeting and beating levels seen pre-pandemic at the airport.

“It’s basically back,” Director of Airports Gene Olson said of holiday travel. “October was our third best October ever. Now we’re not really comparing ourselves to COVID anymore, we’re comparing ourselves to what used to be normal.”

Gene Olson, Director of Airports with PIA
Gene Olson, Director of Airports with PIA(WEEK)

In Illinois, nearly 3 million will take a trip for Thanksgiving, 2.5 million of them by car. Lower gas prices help, as the national average is around $3.25 per gallon, with some stations in the Greater Peoria Area boasting $3.15 and less.

Based on AAA’s analysis, Wednesday afternoon will be the worst time to hit the road, between 2 and 6 p.m. The hours before the Thanksgiving feast, 11 a.m. to 3 p.m., will also be busy.

DayBest Time to LeaveWorst Time to Leave
Wednesday, Nov. 22Before 11 a.m.2 to 6 p.m.
Thursday, Nov. 23Before 10 a.m., after 5 p.m.11 a.m. to 3 p.m.
Friday, Nov. 24Before 11 a.m., After 7 p.m.noon to 4 p.m.
Saturday, Nov. 25Before noon3 to 5 p.m.
Sunday. Nov. 26Before noon3 p.m. to 5 p.m.

According to AAA

The expected record-breaking travel has locals like Kathy Pettet getting her gas and groceries ahead of the rush.

“Too much traffic on the roads,” Pettet said from inside her car at a Morton gas station. “Most of my family lives here so I’m just going to make something at my house and people are going to travel to my house.”

Kathy Pettet
Kathy Pettet(WEEK)

Experts suggest leaving early and giving yourself plenty of time to arrive to your destination, whether it be by plane, train, or automobile.