Santa's hat

With much of the media fanfare focused on gift and entertainment spending during the winter holiday season, you may not realize that Thanksgiving and year-end holidays are also the busiest travel times of the year.

According to a 2022 Thanksgiving survey by the vacationer, approximately 29% (74 million adults) of American adults said they spent more than $500 to travel for Thanksgiving this year. The 28.6% is made up of the 12.56% that say they will spend between $501 to $1,000, the 8.37% that will spend between $1,001 to $1,500, the 5.08% say they’ll spend between $1,501 to $2,000, and the 2.59% that will spend more than $2,000.

Last year, only 20.13% of Americans intended to spend more than $500. Overall 42% more people this year intend to spend over $500 than last year. Rises in gas and inflation means Americans will unfortunately pay significantly more to travel for Thanksgiving this year.

Another 2022 survey by the vacationer for Christmas, Nearly 33% of American adults say they will spend over $500 for the winter holidays. The 32.6% of people that said they will spend over $500 includes the 12.36% that will spend between $501 and $1,000, the 8.57% that will spend between $1,001 and 1,500, the 7.78% that will spend between $1,501 and $2,000, and the 3.89% that will spend over $2,000. The 32.6% figure also represents over 84 million people. 14% more people said they will spend over $500 for Christmas travel than for Thanksgiving travel.

Tracking Travel Prices

In comparison to the previous year, a 2023 AAA Travel survey reports a mixed bag in travel costs for Thanksgiving and year-end trips. Although, average holiday hotel rates reflect a 12% decrease for an average of $568, internationally are up by 5%, an average domestic flight ticket is $681 this year, up 5% from last year. The average international ticket is $1,231, down 57% from last year.

By planning ahead, however, you can keep your travel expenses manageable during the holidays. You can save up to 20 percent on airfare by traveling on Thanksgiving Day or Christmas Day. This season’s busiest travel days, including Dec. 21 and Dec. 28, are also the most expensive in terms of ticket costs. In addition, booking early – prior to Labor Day, if possible – is essential for getting the best deals.

Your location may affect the airfare you pay too. Prices reflect higher demand in the nation’s busiest airports, including Chicago’s O’Hare, LA International, San Francisco International, Boston’s Logan and La Guardia in New York City. The same is true for traveling from smaller airports because you may have to add on a short flight to get to a larger hub, so you should budget a bit more for your plane tickets.

If you do intend to fly over the holidays, be sure to also remember to compare airport parking prices to get the best deal. Average rates range from $3 to more than $20 per day, depending on your proximity to arrival and departure gates, and parking lots fill up quickly, so it’s best to make airport parking reservations as soon as you’ve got your flights booked.

Holiday Travel Trends

If you are like the vast majority of Americans, however, you travel by car during the holiday season. AAA reports that 54.4 million Americans will be driving themselves to their destinations this year for Thanksgiving. It’s 112.7 million travelers for the 2022 holiday period according to AAA year-end reports

According to AAA, the average family spends just under $500 on each holiday trip and drives over 50 miles or more.

The average spend on domestic rental car reservation between November and December is $590.

The Cost of Staying Away

The cost of your holiday accommodations is also a factor you should budget for. The majority of Americans stay with the family or friends with whom they intend to celebrate the season. However, when free beds are unavailable, plan to spend an average of $100 for a mid-range motel room in a smaller town.

For many Americans, traveling to the homes of friends and family is all part of the holiday tradition. You can ensure that your family arrives on time and on budget by paying attention to travel cost trends and booking well in advance of the season.

To help you plan ahead we’ve put together some top Christmas events and activities across the US that you might like to enjoy during the holiday season.