Allianz - Travel
Travel Resources

Thanksgiving Road Trip? Here's How to Be First to the Table

Thanksgiving Road Trip
Allianz - Thanksgiving Road Trip

Road trips often conjure visions of the open road, flexible itineraries, and the freedom to make unplanned stops and detours.

But that doesn’t always mesh with the typical Thanksgiving travel itinerary, when the only thing more jammed up than the oven are America’s highways. And your schedule is tighter than your pants after round two of indulging in the big spread.

But with the right planning, Thanksgiving travel can be a welcome adventure. This year, that planning includes navigating a few new speeds bumps along the way. Don’t worry, we’ve written the recipe for a tasty road trip that rivals Aunt Edna’s candied yams (just don’t tell her we said that).

Thanksgiving Travel: Who’s Making the Trip?

In recent years, about 50 million Americans have taken to the roads on Thanksgiving, according to AAA.1

This year is a bit of a wild card, but there are a few clues offering some potential guidance to how crowded you can expect our highways to be.

First we can look at the summer, when AAA forecast that Americans made 700 million trips. The important number to note here is that total represents a 15-percent decline compared to the previous year. That suggests that we could see a similar dip in Thanksgiving travel, too, although not a huge decline.2

There is another factor to consider — one that could be clogging up the roads.

Fewer folks are flying this year, with the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) reporting about 40 percent less air travel compared to the previous year.2 Likewise, online travel booking aggregator Kayak reported that searches for domestic flights were down 81 percent.

That’s a lot of numbers to wade through, but here are your important takeaways. While some lack of bookings may be attributed to last-minute travel, there’s a good chance that many people who took to the skies last Thanksgiving are taking to the roads this year. So, take heed and plan your trip around the busiest travel times.3

When to Plan Your Thanksgiving Travel

The day and time you gas up your family cruiser and embark on holiday travel makes a big difference in determining how long it will take to get from Point A to Point B.

For the first leg, avoid the Wednesday before Thanksgiving at all costs — especially the afternoon. That’s according to Google, which aggregated traffic data across the county. If you’re an early bird, leaving at 6 a.m. on Turkey Day should steer you clear of major volume delays. As for the return trip, avoid Friday and Sunday afternoon if possible.4

One bonus this year is that you can expect much smoother sailing on local roads Friday morning — the time traditionally known as Black Friday — especially if your journey takes you past usually bustling retail destinations.

The Perfect Side Dish: Travel Insurance

When it comes to Thanksgiving travel, bird is the word. So is “insurance.” You don’t need to be flying to consider packing a travel insurance plan from Allianz Global Assistance. That’s because when you’re hitting the road, medical emergencies are even more likely. And trip cancellation can cause you to lose out on nonrefundable payments for hotels, rental houses, and more. Plus, if you need concierge assistance to find an open grocery store for dinner rolls and whipped cream while en route to grandma’s house, we’re waiting for your call, 24/7. We’re there for antacid on the return trip as well. Find the ideal travel insurance plan for your budget and holiday travel itinerary now.

Toll Road Tips

When it comes to highway travel, procrastination can take a toll.

If you’re one of those late to the party when it comes to signing up for a toll tag or electronic transponder for your vehicle, you could be in for a surprise when you reach into your cupholder to fish for change or break out a fresh $20 bill to change.

That’s because many toll roads have gone cashless. And without participation in E-ZPass, SunPass or another transponder program, you could be sent into designated toll lanes where your license plate will be photographed and the corresponding toll bill will be mailed to your home.

And don’t expect short waits in those lanes.

Other times, you may be stuck between a rock and an exact change only lane — and only have large bills. Then you could face a ticket or fine.

On the flip side, the tolls on your road could be suspended — jackpot, right?

Do your homework and plan appropriately by checking this guide from Tollsmart.5

Hope For Sun. Plan For Snow.

While it’s always smart to have your mechanic or dealership look your cover over before an extended Thanksgiving road trip, it’s even more important if you’ll potentially be dealing with snow and ice en route to your destination. Winterizing your car includes many D.I.Y. jobs too, such as checking the condition of your wiper blades, tires and battery strength; topping off fluid levels; and ensuring you always have half a tank of gas. Make sure you have an ice scraper and pack an emergency kit: jumper cables, shovel, bag of sand, a flashlight, food and water. And if you know for certain snow and ice will be a problem, consider upgrading to snow tires.

Be sure to pack some road flares, too. You probably won’t need them, but feel free to set them off in celebratory fashion when you arrive back home from a hopefully not-so-grueling trek back from grandma’s.5

Don’t forget to bring your common sense along for the ride this holiday season. Pack a lunch and snacks instead of having to stop at shops and restaurants along the way. Scout out bathroom stops that are clean and open. Avoid crowds. And keep sanitizer handy. Thanksgiving may look a little different, but being the early bird feels just as good.

Related Articles

Allianz - AZ_OPM_Insurance_Partner

Nov 06, 2020