The Worst Part of Thanksgiving Travel? Driving to the Airport

Travel-Times-11.13.jpg illustration by Paul Dolan

Thanksgiving travel tends to suck no matter what. With everyone trying to make it home for the holiday, traveling by plane or car can be a real pain in the you-know-what. But when you combine the two — driving to get to the airport, and likely running behind in a frantic state to boot – it has the potential to be the least predictable and most annoying part of your travel itinerary.

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Peak travel times to airports will vary for every major city in the U.S., ranging from the Monday evening rush hour to early Wednesday afternoon the week of Thanksgiving. But what will the route to the airport look like in your city? Below are the 10 worst predicted travel times to 10 of the busiest airports across the country, according to travel-services provider AAA and transportation analytics and connected-car services firm Inrix. All times are measured from each city’s downtown to its airport (and listed in descending order for dramatic effect):

10. Charlotte, N.C., 21 minutes

9. San Francisco, 24 minutes

8. Las Vegas, 27 minutes

7. Dallas, 30 minutes

6. Atlanta, 34 minutes

5. Seattle, 41 minutes

4. Denver, 55 minutes

3. Los Angeles, 58 minutes

2. New York, 1 hour, 19 minutes

1. Chicago, 1 hour, 37 minutes

Even if you don’t live in one of these cities, make sure to give yourself plenty of extra travel time no matter where you’re going this holiday season. AAA is predicting 54.3 million Americans will venture 50 miles or more away from home this Thanksgiving, a 4.8 percent increase from 2017 and the highest travel volume the holiday has seen since 2005.

“Consumers have a lot to be thankful for this holiday season: higher wages, more disposable income and rising levels of household wealth,” said Bill Sutherland, AAA Travel senior vice president. “This is translating into more travelers kicking off the holiday season with a Thanksgiving getaway, building on a positive year for the travel industry.”

Even though drivers should expect to pay the highest Thanksgiving gas prices in four years and 31 cents more per gallon than in 2017, that’s not likely to keep people off the roads. AAA predicts 48.5 million people to travel by car this holiday, nearly 5 percent more than last year.

While most travelers will go by car, another 4.27 million Americans are expected to travel by plane, while 1.48 million are expected to travel by train, bus or cruise ship.

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If you are traveling by car this holiday, make sure you’re prepared. AAA also expects to come to the aid of nearly 360,000 motorists this Thanksgiving. Dead batteries, lockouts and flat tires are the main reasons AAA members will need roadside assistance. Take all necessary precautions before your road trip and be sure to have your car inspected by a trusted repair facility to get any needed maintenance done before heading out to stuff yourself with turkey surrounded by loved ones – and maybe that one uncle who has one too many and starts picking fights about politics.’s Editorial department is your source for automotive news and reviews. In line with’s long-standing ethics policy, editors and reviewers don’t accept gifts or free trips from automakers. The Editorial department is independent of’s advertising, sales and sponsored content departments.

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