Thanksgiving Travel 2022 Outlook Report

Americans gear up for a busy Thanksgiving, with 25 million seats expected to depart on flights from US airports over the holiday week.

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Hayley Berg - Tue Nov 01 2022

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With less than a month until Thanksgiving, millions of Americans are busy planning and booking their holiday week travel. As of today, nearly 25 million seats are expected to depart on flights from US airports over the Thanksgiving travel week, from Sunday 11/20 to Sunday 11/27; a 6% increase in capacity compared to 2019. 

Today, domestic airfare for Thanksgiving is $282 per round-trip ticket, an increase of 17% or $40 compared to last year, and in line with 2019 prices. Airfare remained relatively stable throughout October, but already has begun to spike as the holiday approaches. Airfare spiked by 10% or $30 in the last week alone! International airfare is $842 per round-trip ticket, an increase of 30% or about $195 compared to last year and 30% higher than 2019. A little less than half of Americans planning their holiday travel currently are looking for international flights.

Most Booked Destinations for Thanksgiving

High prices are not deterring travelers this holiday season, with trips to Disney, beach destinations and mountain towns trending up for families, couples and solo travelers alike.  

This Thanksgiving season Americans are headed to major cities like Orlando, Chicago and Atlanta as they head home or on vacation for the holidays. Those travelers grabbing their passports over the holiday week are primarily taking shorter haul international flights to destinations in Mexico and the Caribbean or to major European hubs like London and Paris.

Busiest Airports

This Thanksgiving season, airlines have scheduled nearly 25 million seats departing from US airports between Sunday 11/20 and Sunday 11/27, a 6% increase compared to Thanksgiving 2019. Capacity gains come only on domestic routes, while capacity remains 10% lower on international routes this holiday season. Higher expected domestic capacity at Thanksgiving comes somewhat unexpectedly late in the season, as airlines solved many of the challenges that caused schedules to be reduced over the summer and early fall. 

Airports will be packed with travelers throughout the Thanksgiving week, with the highest volume of passengers departing the Sunday before (estimated 3.3 million) and peaking Sunday following Thanksgiving (estimated 3.4 million). Thanksgiving day will be the slowest day at US airports, with only 2.24 million seats estimated to depart by comparison. 

Travelers flying over the course of the holiday week should expect the longest lines and busiest airports the days leading up to Thanksgiving, and on the Sunday following. Atlanta, Dallas Fort-Worth and Denver will all see over a million seats departing over the course of the week, with the most passengers flying in the morning (8am - 12pm). If you’re departing from one of these busiest airports, be sure to get to the airport early, expect longer lines and be prepared for potential delays and disruptions as the airports manage heavy holiday traffic. 

After a summer with record high cancellation and delay rates, travelers remain concerned about high disruption rates heading into the holiday season. This summer major airports reported disruptions on 1 in 3 flights on average, with some single day delay rates reaching 40% of flights and cancelation rates peaking over 8% of all US departing flights. 

Today, thousands of Hopper customers are adding disruption protection to their bookings each week to protect against delayed flights or missed connections over the holidays. In fact, Thanksgiving travelers are 25% more likely to add Hopper’s Flight Disruption Guarantee to their booking than the average booker.

Travelers flying out of these 10 airports should plan ahead for potential disruptions, after these airports topped the list for worst airports for disruption last Thanksgiving, and over this summer. 

Trending Destinations by traveler types

With most schools and offices closed for 2 or more days the week of Thanksgiving, millions of travelers are taking advantage of the holiday to take a vacation. 

For families, the holiday week means visiting the most magical places on earth, with Orlando and Ontario, California topping the list for trending destinations for families this Thanksgiving- both with access to Disney parks. Families headed internationally are visiting destinations in the Caribbean, Mexico and even over indexing on trips to Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam. 

Couples this Thanksgiving are headed to Hawaii, with the big island and Lihue topping the list for trending couple getaways. Internationally, beach destinations in Mexico and Jamaica top the list along with long haul trips to Dubai. 

Solo travelers and digital nomads are headed all over the world, with the mountains in Bozeman, Montana and beaches in Melbourne, Florida trending the highest. Internationally, long haul trips to Nigeria, Brazil and Denmark top the list for solo travelers over Thanksgiving. 

Hotel Stays

Hotel stays over Thanksgiving week will average travelers about $170 per night, only 2% more expensive than last year. Most travelers are making a week of their trip, averaging 6 nights per stay through Thanksgiving. The night before Thanksgiving is the most popular check in date, while most travelers will be checking out on Sunday 11/27.

New York stays are in the highest demand, with travelers looking to visit the city over Thanksgiving and enjoy the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. New York visitors will pay an average of $369 per night to stay in town over Thanksgiving. Orlando (with access to Disney), Chicago, Atlanta and Las Vegas top the list of most in demand cities to stay in over the holiday week.

Checking in at the last minute over Thanksgiving can actually save you bigtime on hotel rates. Last year, same-day bookers for the night before Thanksgiving saved 23% off hotels, with prices dropping as much as 12% within 24 hours of check in! Thanksgiving day bookers saved 28% off hotel stays when they booked same-day check-ins. Black Friday is a popular day for hotel stays, especially last minute ones, so travelers can only save about 9% by searching and booking for same day check in. Buyer be warned, though there will be great prices for same-day check ins, travelers may need to be flexible on where they stay. Some specific hotels or room types may be sold out with holiday travelers. Use Hopper to find all the deals and available stays near you when you plan your last-minute holiday stay. 

Rental Cars

With millions of travelers headed home or on vacation this year, demand for rental cars is building as Thanksgiving approaches. Car rentals are averaging $62 per day for the holiday week, and as high as $180 per day in cities like Austin, Texas. Prices are down 22.5% compared to last year, when rentals averaged $80 per day as supply was restricted and demand strong for the 2019 season. Orlando, Atlanta and Las Vegas are in the highest demand over Thanksgiving, with prices around the national average. Most travelers are booking car rentals for an extended weekend, about 5 days over the holiday week. 

How to avoid flight delays & cancellations over Thanksgiving?

  1. Add Trip Protection to your holiday booking - When booking holiday travel this year, we recommend adding trip protection to safeguard against potential flight delays and cancellations. With Hopper’s Flight Disruption Guarantee, if your flight is canceled by the airline, you experience a delay or you miss a connection, you can immediately rebook on any carrier directly in the app. In fact, Thanksgiving travelers are 25% more likely to add trip protection compared to the average booker on Hopper.

  2. Take the first flight out - Early bird gets the worm! Hopper recommends booking the earliest flight available, so you’re less likely to be impacted by delays from earlier in the day. 

  3. Build in a buffer day - Particularly for the holidays, it’s always a good idea to add in an extra day or two to your travel plans, to ensure you arrive at your destination on time (and with some wiggle room).

  4. Get to the airport early - With nearly 25 million seats expected to depart over Thanksgiving week this year, the airports will be crowded. Arrive at the airport early to give yourself plenty of time to get through airport security and to your flight on time. 

  5. Avoid peak travel days - The Sunday before Thanksgiving, November 20th and the Sunday following Thanksgiving, November 27th are expected to be the busiest travel days of the holiday week. If you can, avoid these dates to reduce your chances of trip disruption and additional chaos at the airport.

Travel Savings Tips:

  1. If you haven’t booked Thanksgiving flights yet, book ASAP - Domestic prices for Thanksgiving flights are on the rise. In fact, domestic airfare spiked by 10% or $30 in the last week alone! We expect prices to rise another $10-15 per day in the weeks leading up to Thanksgiving, peaking at $450 round-trip for last-minute flights. If you haven’t booked your Thanksgiving flights do so sooner rather than later before prices spike and flights potentially sell out on the route you’re looking for.

  2. Lock in a price now, even if you need more time to book - If you need more time to coordinate plans with family and friends or you’re waiting for your next paycheck to come in, take advantage of Hopper’s Price Freeze tool. Lock in a good price you see today, and book when you’re ready – so you don’t have to worry about paying higher prices as we get closer to the holidays.

  3. Be flexible on dates - If you still haven’t booked holiday travel, the best way to save is to be flexible on the days you fly. If you can depart the week prior to Thanksgiving and return the following week you can save the most on your trip. Consider having Thanksgiving dinner at home, and heading out on Black Friday.

  4. When it comes to your hotel stay, it can pay to wait until the last minute - You can find some of the best deals over Thanksgiving at the last minute. Hotels often drop prices in the days leading up to the holiday. In fact, Thanksgiving day bookers saved 28% off their hotel stays last year when they booked same-day check-ins. Be sure to favorite a hotel in the Hopper app and we’ll alert you as soon as a good deal becomes available.