Strong economy, low airfares mean increase in Thanksgiving travel

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AAA projects 50.9 million Americans will travel at least 50 miles from home from Nov. 22-26, the highest Thanksgiving holiday travel volume since 2005.

Compared to last year, 1.6 million more people will travel, a 3.3% increase.

"A strong economy and labor market are generating rising incomes and higher consumer confidence, fueling a strong year for the travel industry, which will continue into the holiday season," said Bill Sutherland, AAA's senior vice president of travel and publishing.

Eighty-nine percent of travelers -- 45.5 million -- will travel via road trip, a 3.2% increase from last year. The biggest growth in Thanksgiving travel is via airplane, with 5% more travelers flying this holiday weekend than last year at 3.95 million.

According to AAA's Leisure Travel Index, air travelers will pay the lowest average fare in five years for a roundtrip flight on the top 40 domestic routes -- $157 on average, a 23% year-over-year drop.

Rental car averages have increased 34%, to $70 a day. Car rental rates have not been that high since 2013. Some hotel prices have also increased. AAA Three Diamond hotels have increased 14% on average to $176 a night, but Two Diamond hotels dipped to $117 per night, a 5% decrease.

AAA said the top destinations are Orlando, Anaheim, New York, Honolulu, Las Vegas, Punta Cana, Cancun, San Francisco, Maui, and Fort Lauderdale.

Allianz Global Assistance this week also released its top destinations for Thanksgiving, after reviewing 4.5 million plans made by American travelers for Nov. 18-28.

Domestically, the top locations are New York, Atlanta, Los Angeles, Orlando, Boston, Chicago, San Francisco, Dallas, Washington, D.C., and Seattle. Internationally, the top spots are Cancun, London, Paris, Puerto Vallarta, Tokyo, San Jose Del Cabo, Montego Bay, Rome, Nassau (Bahamas) and Aruba.

New York has been the top domestic location for the past three years, according to Allianz. Cancun has reigned as the top international destination from 2015-2017.

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