Here’s Why 80% of Thanksgiving Travelers Will Drive, Says Survey

202211-thanksgiving-travel-2 Thanksgiving travel trends | Illustration by Paul Dolan

Whether it’s seeing family, escaping family or simply not wasting an entire day in the kitchen, the reasons to hit the road for Turkey Day are as copious as the amount of food you’re likely to consume at the big feast. To learn what’s driving traveler behavior for the holidays, conducted a nationwide survey regarding consumers’ Thanksgiving plans.

Related: 10 Best Cars for Road-Tripping on a Budget

Out of over 1,800 respondents, 61% plan to travel, 80% are choosing to drive to their destination and many are sticking within 50 miles of home. The reasons for these travel choices and other considerations travelers face as they pack up their families (and cars) follow below.

Not Straying Far

While it may come as a surprise that only 15% of respondents are flying for Thanksgiving while 80% are hitting the road, those numbers make sense given the fact that most travelers aren’t planning a cross-country trip for the holiday. Out of the respondents who plan to travel, 40% are traveling within 20 miles of home and another 25% are traveling between 21 and 50 miles.

For those who are staying put for Thanksgiving, tradition and higher costs are the biggest motivating factors. 58% of respondents said they don’t typically travel for Thanksgiving, and 24% attribute higher gas costs or rising daily expenses as the main reasons to celebrate at home. Even as average gas prices have dropped nearly 25% from their record highs over the summer, according to AAA’s price tracker, travel costs and rising inflation are proving to be a challenge for some.

Saving Some Gravy, Avoiding Travel Headaches

A 2021 Subaru Forester driving on a road 2021 Subaru Forester | Manufacturer image

As financial concerns are motivating some respondents to simply stay home, they are driving others to … well, drive. Nearly half of respondents report that they will be hitting the road even though they prefer to fly due to the high costs of air travel.

However, flight costs aren’t the sole reason travelers are skipping the airport security lines: 20% of drivers say they prefer to fly but are concerned about flight disruptions. When asked about common headaches associated with recent air travel, 48% of respondents report experiencing weather delays and 35% said they had their flights canceled.

Not only is driving typically more affordable than flying, but it also allows travelers to have more control over the trip. While traffic is often a wild card, at least the departure time and stops along the route can be planned.

Saving money on holiday travel can come down to making the trip as efficient as possible. Those looking to buy a new car before the holidays should consider going with one of the most fuel-efficient options on the market or choosing one of’s picks for road-tripping on a budget. Electrified options including hybrids, plug-in hybrids or fully electric vehicles can also be smart choices. Meanwhile, those making the trip in their tried-and-true vehicle can take some basic measures to save on gas.

EVs Can Roadtrip

tesla-model-y-2022-01-dynamic-exterior-profile-sedan-white 2022 Tesla Model Y Performance | photo by Christian Lantry

Of the respondents traveling by car, 18% say they are planning to make the trip in an EV — a significant jump from the 10% that planned to take an EV in the Labor Day travel survey. But even as more drivers are taking a battery-powered vehicle on the trip, range anxiety remains a concern: 66% of EV drivers report that range anxiety affects their travel distance.

Shoppers considering purchasing a new EV can look for a vehicle that lands among models with the longest range. Understanding the variables that impact range (like extreme temperatures) and knowing how to preserve range are equally helpful in reducing anxiety.

For current EV owners, a solid road-trip plan can help alleviate anxiety regardless of the vehicle’s maximum range. 86% of EV drivers say they planned their route based on charging stations and nearly 50% said that finding charging stations along the route is convenient. However, an inoperable charging station can quickly throw a wrench into the plan: According to a J.D. Power study, many EV owners cite out-of-service chargers as a major concern, even as more chargers are installed across the country.

Kids, Pets Tagging Along

jeep-grand-cherokee-2022-01-car-seat-check-interior 2022 Jeep Grand Cherokee | photo by Jennifer Geiger

Small travel companions (i.e. kids and pets) played a big role in the decision to drive for some survey respondents: 42% say they plan to travel with children and 8% say they’ll bring pets along. Out of the 56% of respondents that require car seats for their (human) kids, 34% report it’s much easier to drive than fly with a car seat. As for the fur kids, 28% of respondents say they would typically fly but are choosing to drive so they can bring a pet along.

Families looking for a car-seat-friendly vehicle can consult’s annual Car Seat Fit Report Card for the top recommendations across all vehicle types. Perhaps more important than a vehicle’s ease of car seat installation is knowing how to properly install car seats (demonstrated in this video). Making sure pets are safe and comfortable on the road trip involves another set of considerations that we round up here.

Prep Your Car for the Trip

chevrolet-colorado-zr2-bison-2019-31-exterior--tire-pressure--wheel.jpg 2019 Chevrolet Colorado ZR2 Bison tire pressure check | photo by Christian Lantry

While drivers likely won’t have to endure as many unexpected disruptions as those choosing to fly, it’s a good idea to ensure your vehicle is ready and willing to take the trip. After all, a breakdown or emergency could mean you arrive at dinner just as everyone is waking up from their tryptophan comas.

It’s important to inspect the vehicle prior to the trip, says AAA: Check that the tires are properly inflated, top off or change fluids, and ensure the radiator and cooling systems are in good condition. You should also be prepared for a roadside emergency: Make sure the spare tire is properly inflated and pack items like a first-aid kit, jumper cables, motor oil and radiator fluid.

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Former News Editor Jane Ulitskaya joined the team in 2021, and her areas of focus included researching and reporting on vehicle pricing, inventory and auto finance trends. Email Jane Ulitskaya

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