Near-record Thanksgiving travel projected for DC region as gas prices continue to drop

More than 1.25 million people in the D.C. region will be hitting the roads over the Thanksgiving holiday weekend, making it the second-highest number since AAA began tracking holiday travel in 2000. And, gassing up for the travel will be considerably cheaper this year.

Overall, the travel group projects more than 1.3 million Washington metro area residents will travel during Thanksgiving 2023, an increase of more than two percent over last year. The highest travel volume was in 2005, when more than 1.4 million District-area residents traveled for the holiday.

The vast majority of people traveling more than 50 miles — 90% — will drive to their holiday destination. The highest number was in 2019 when 1.26 million drove to their holiday feast.

Fueling the car or SUV will be far less expensive this year.

“There’s some great news to be grateful for, heading into the holiday,” said Ragina Ali, spokeswoman for AAA Mid-Atlantic. “Gas prices are trending nearly 30 cents less than last year.”

D.C.’s gas price average Sunday was $3.49, down five cents in the past week, 16 cents in the past week, and 26 cents less than last year. When trips extend outside the D.C. region, pump prices are even lower with a national average of $3.31.

As for the best time to travel, as WTOP Traffic has reported, in recent years, the Thanksgiving getaway has expanded, with some travelers leaving the week before the holiday feast. The worst, most congested time to leave for Thanksgiving will be Wednesday, between 2 and 6 p.m., AAA said.

Air travel continues to rebound, in the wake of the pandemic. AAA is projecting nearly 90,000 District-area travelers fly, more than 8% over last year, but still down more than 11% from the more than 101,000, who jetted off to their holiday destination over the Thanksgiving holiday in 2019. 

Neal Augenstein

Neal Augenstein has been a reporter at WTOP since 1997. Through the years, Neal has covered many of the crimes and trials that have gripped the region. Neal's been pleased to receive awards over the years for hard news, feature reporting, use of sound and sports.

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