2017 GA Thanksgiving: Best And Worst Travel Times, Gas Prices

ATLANTA, GA — Georgia’s roads are likely to be jam-packed with Thanksgiving traffic this week, so most major road construction will come to a halt to help travelers. And Georgia State Police will be out in full force looking for impaired drivers on what will be a busy long weekend.

AAA projects 45.5 million Americans will hit the road for the holiday, up 3.2 percent compared with last year. And many Americans flying in the next week will pass through the world’s busiest Airport, Hartsfield Jackson Atlanta International.

Airport officials say the Thanksgiving travel period is the busiest time of year at the airport. Nationwide, more than 2.4 million passengers per day are expected to fly during that period, according to the Transportation Security Administration.

“The 2017 holiday weekend will see the highest Thanksgiving travel volume since 2005 with 1.6 million more people taking to the nation’s roads, skies, rails and waterways compared with last year,” AAA said in a statement.

AAA expects most drivers will pay the highest Thanksgiving gas prices since 2014, when the national average was $2.80, but the vast majority of holiday travelers are still planning to hit the road. On Tuesday, the national average for regular gasoline is $2.54 per gallon, an increase of 8 cents from the previous month’s price and 40 cents higher than last year’s price of $2.14. Atlanta’s average is $2.38 per gallon on Nov. 21, says AAA.


More Thanksgiving travel facts to know from AAA:

  • Cheaper airfare: Consumers will pay the cheapest average airfare since 2013.
  • Fueling up: Drivers will pay the highest Thanksgiving gas prices since 2014.
  • Holiday high: Car rental daily rates will hit a five-year holiday high at $70/day, which may be due to an increase in domestic demand and cost of newer vehicles.

Here’s some more important info if you’ll be hitting the road this Thanksgiving.

Hitting the Highway

  • To help drivers avoid the traffic, the Georgia Department of Transportation is suspending construction-related lane closures on interstate highways, heavily traveled state routes and roadways near major shopping centers, malls, and shopping districts from 6 a.m. Wednesday, Nov. 22, to 5 a.m. Monday, Nov. 27.
  • The Georgia State patrol is also making preparations for the 102-hour-long travel period, which begins at 6 p.m. Nov. 22 and ends 11:59 p.m. Nov. 25 for the department. The holiday traffic count will be updated throughout the holiday period on the Georgia Department of Public Safety Twitter page.

Best Time To Leave

At peak travel times — in Georgia, Google says that’s 3 p.m. Wednesday — drivers could experience serious delays. On your way out of town, Google suggests waiting until the last minute. The best time to leave will be 6 a.m. on Thanksgiving Day, according to the company’s results.

When you’re on your way home, an early start on Saturday is your best bet. Get going at 6 a.m. on Saturday and you’ll be in good shape. Wait until Saturday at 4 p.m., though, and a stuffing-and-cranberries hangover won’t be your only problem.

At the Airport

From Nov. 17-28, more than 28.5 million passengers are expected to travel on U.S. airlines for the Thanksgiving holiday, up 3 percent from 2016, say airline experts. According to a news release, the busiest travel days are expected to be Sunday, Nov. 26, Wednesday, Nov. 22, and Friday, Nov. 17, while the lightest is expected to be Thanksgiving Day.

  • To help get passengers get in and out of Hartsfield-Jackson, airport officials say they are ceasing ongoing construction projects to make traffic in the airport area smoother. Staffing at the airport has been increased and TSA checkpoints will be opening earlier than usual.
  • The airport also is reminding domestic travelers to arrive two hours before their flight time.
  • For more information on flights, parking and other details about the Atlanta airport, you can visit the airport’s website or download the iFLYAtl mobile app.
  • The Transportation Security Administration says these are the peak travel times with the longest waits:
    • Tuesday, 6 to 8 am and 3 to 5 pm
    • Wednesday, 6 to 8 am and 4 to 5 pm
    • Thursday, 5 to 8 am and 4 to 7 pm
    • Friday, 5 to 8 am and 3 to 5 pm

Gas prices

GasBuddy predicts that the national average gas price this Thanksgiving will be $2.53 per gallon, the highest it’s been since 2014, though not as high as the peak on Thanksgiving in 2012 ($3.44). In Georgia, the average gas price was $2.38 per gallon as of Tuesday afternoon, lower than the national average of $2.533.

Prices in the Atlanta area ranged from $2.41 to 2.09 a gallon on Tuesday, according to GasBuddy.

GasBuddy offers some tips to cut the cost of filling up:

  • Watch out for state lines. Because of differing state taxes, in some extreme cases, drivers can spend an extra $25 when refueling the tank if on the wrong side of the line according to a recent GasBuddy study.
  • Avoid gas stations near the highway. Gas station on a long stretch of highway will usually be pricey. If possible, plan ahead or drive a little farther toward the nearest town to find a cheaper station.

Help On The Road
Before setting out for the weekend, drivers can download the free AAA Mobile app for iPhone, iPad and Android at AAA.com/mobile. The app offers anyone access to map a route, find lowest gas prices, and search for AAA approved repair facilities, while AAA members can access exclusive member discounts, make travel arrangements, and request AAA roadside assistance, as well.

For up-to-date information about travel conditions on Georgia’s interstates and state routes, call 511 or visit www.511ga.org before heading out. 511 is a free service that provides real-time statewide information on Georgia’s interstates and state routes, including traffic conditions, incidents, lane closures, and delays due to inclement weather 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Callers can also transfer to operators to request HERO assistance in metro Atlanta or CHAMP service on highways in other regions of the state.

Image via Shutterstock

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