More NJ residents are traveling for this Thanksgiving holiday

By now, most people are aware that the five-day Thanksgiving Day holiday weekend is the busiest travel time of the year, and this year is no different.

AAA forecasts that nearly 1.5 million New Jersey residents will travel 50 miles or more over the Thanksgiving holiday weekend, up nearly 2% year over year and reminiscent of pre-pandemic vacation travel, said Tracy Noble, spokeswoman for AAA MidAtlantic.

Nationally, AAA forecasts 54.6 million will travel this holiday weekend, up 1.5% from 2021 and 98% of pre-pandemic volume.

How will New Jerseyers travel?

As expected, nearly 90% of New Jerseyers, or more than 1.3 million of them, will travel to their vacation destinations, Noble said. That’s just below pre-pandemic levels and the third-highest number since AAA has kept records.

“Across New Jersey, gas prices are trending about 30 to 40 cents higher than last year, but most travelers don’t seem concerned,” she said.

As the holiday weekend begins, the New Jersey gasoline average is $3.80 a gallon, down a cent overnight. But it’s about 20 cents higher than this time last year, Noble said.

AAA also forecast that 140,000 Garden State residents will take to the skies over the holiday long weekend, up more than 8% from a year ago.

“So what we’re seeing is that people are returning to their comfort levels when they’re traveling on mass transit,” Noble said.

Other modes of transportation are also seeing the biggest jump for Thanksgiving holiday travel, she said.

Nearly 28,000 New Jerseyers will travel by bus, cruise, train or a combination of both this year. That’s a 21% increase in New Jersey, Noble added.

Is travel back to pre-pandemic levels?

“We’re just shy of these pre-pandemic levels. We’re 96% where we were in 2019, so things are coming back,” Noble said.

Despite rising gas prices this year and other spending across the board, people still want to travel for Thanksgiving because they want to be with friends and family, she said.

When is the best and the worst time to travel?

The best time to travel this bank holiday weekend is Wednesday November 23, either very early before 8am or later in the evening after 8pm, she said. The worst travel time on this day is between 11 a.m. and 8 p.m. Most people take the day off and head out early on Wednesday.

If you’re staying local and only traveling on Thanksgiving, Noble says the best time to travel is on Thursday before 11am or after 6pm. Peak travel time is between 11am and 3pm

On the journey home, most likely Sunday, November 27, Noble said to avoid travel between 4pm and 8pm. These are the peak travel times. It is best to travel before 11am and after 8pm to avoid traffic jams.

Streets will be crowded, so use caution, pack your patience, eliminate distractions, wear seat belts, designate a driver for the ride and don’t get behind the wheel if you’ve been drinking, she said.

“Plan ahead and be prepared for traffic jams and delays, whether you’re driving or flying, as both roads and airports are expected to be busy this Thanksgiving season,” Noble said.

If you see roadside breakdowns, as well as police, EMS and/or fire engines, do your best to switch and let them do their jobs safely so they can get back to their families, she added.

Jen Ursillo is a reporter and anchor for New Jersey 101.5. You can reach her at [email protected]

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