AAA: this year’s Thanksgiving travel volume to near pre-pandemic levels


INDIANAPOLIS — Local experts with AAA predict Indiana will see a significant increase in Thanksgiving travel volume this year compared to last.

Back in 2019, AAA National recorded a total of 1.262 million Hoosiers who traveled by either plane or car during the Thanksgiving holiday. One year later, in 2020, the pandemic dropped those same numbers to roughly 1.068 million Hoosier travelers. This year, an estimated 1.226 million Hoosiers are projected make up for lost travels – a 14.5% increase over 2020.

20211.226M (+14.8%)110K (+84.6%)1.092M (+9%)
Source – IHS Markit / AAA National (*Percentage increase over 2020)

Meanwhile, AAA estimates air travel will see the biggest jump compared to 2020. Experts predict airports statewide will see roughly 110,000 passengers this year — an 84.6% increase compared to 2020’s 60,000 passengers and an exact mirror of 2019’s totals.

More than 90,000 passengers are expected to travel through the Indianapolis International Airport (IND) surrounding the Thanksgiving holiday.

Indianapolis Airport Authority’s Executive Director, Mario Rodriguez, said TSA staff are prepared to handle the surge in travelers.

“Last year was devastating because of COVID,” said Rodriguez. “We’re incredibly excited [this year] because we’re starting to look like 2019 numbers.”

Airport officials said more than 15,000 passengers are expected per day from November 24 – 30 with peak outbound travel days being Saturday, Sunday and Monday.

“Everybody should get here at least two hours before – especially if they’re leaving between that 5am-7am timeframe,” said Rodriguez.

Rodriguez said that is because early morning flights will be the most impacted by a surge in travelers. He reminds travelers to plan ahead and pack smart to help make the travel experience as smooth as possible for everyone.

“I think people are ready to see their families,” said Meredith McCaskill, a driver headed from Nashville to South Bend. “I think people have been cooped up and they’re ready to be on the move.”

McCaskill said she usually picks flying over driving, but this year’s high flight prices changed her mind.

“It was so expensive to fly. It was about $400 one way so for two people to travel that distance that we’re going – it just didn’t seem to make sense so road trip it is,” said McCaskill.

McCaskill said she planned her trip home strategically — working remotely from the car and leaving early to avoid traffic.

“I thought tomorrow, the day before Thanksgiving, we might run into just a little more traffic so – we could leave today so we thought why not,” said McCaskill.

“The vaccine is out so a lot of people are taking it. A lot of people are getting their boosters,” said driver Ago Morris. “I imagine that’s the reason a lot of people are movin’ and we see a lot more traffic.”

Morris said he would not be surprised if travel volumes surpassed previous records. He thinks many Hoosiers are making up for lost time during last year’s holiday.

“Everybody’s so anxious to see their family. I mean people ain’t seen their family in forever,” said Morris.

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