Interstate 85 traffic file photo (copy)

The day before Thanksgiving will be the most heavily traveled day during the five-day holiday travel period of Nov. 27-Dec. 1. Interstate highways are expected to be packed as a record number of motorists will take to the roads.

If you’re not driving on Nov. 27, you may have a good reason to be thankful.

That, of course, is the day before Thanksgiving and, according to AAA projections, it will be the peak day of the second-heaviest Thanksgiving holiday travel period since 2000. The 55.28 million American travelers this month is a number that will trail only 2005.

Of those, a record 49.35 million will drive to their destinations. AAA defines holiday travel as going 50 miles or further from home over the five-day Thanksgiving holiday period, which it defines as Nov. 27-Dec. 1.

“Millions of Americans will seek memorable experiences as they travel for Thanksgiving,” Montrae Waiters, a spokeswoman for AAA–The Auto Club Group, said. “This year’s holiday will be busier thanks to a strong economy, higher wages and increasing disposable income.”

This will be the 11th straight year in which Thanksgiving travel has increased over the previous year.

Georgians will do their part in this numbers game. Of Georgia’s expected 1.63 million travelers, 1.48 million will take to the state’s roadways. That roadway travel is 3.1% higher than last Thanksgiving.

And if you’re driving in the Atlanta area, the Wednesday before Thanksgiving is the day to avoid, especially the early evening. From 5:30-7:30 p.m. on Nov. 27, you can expect to see your drive time take 3.5 times longer than normal.

Of course, chances are you may be headed in the opposite direction, since the amusement park mecca of Orlando, Fla., is in its traditional spot of being the No. 1 planned destination for travelers, AAA officials say.

Rounding out the top 10 U.S. destinations are, in order, Anaheim, Calif.; New York City; Las Vegas; Honolulu; Ft. Lauderdale, Fla.; Tampa, Fla.; Kahului, Hawaii; Phoenix, Ariz., and Miami.

Compared to last year, the 55.28 million volume is up 1.6 million people, or 2.9%. The 49.35 million traveling by auto is up 2.8% from last year.

The number of Americans flying is dwarfed by the driving number but is still a record since AAA began keeping these holiday travel statistics in 2000. About 4.45 million people will fly, up 4.6% from 2018. In Georgia, 119,849 people will take to the skies, up 4.4% from last year.

AAA officials say the best day to fly is Nov. 25. The Monday before Thanksgiving, they said, has the lowest average price for flights before the holiday and has the lightest volume. If you want the best deal on a ticket, however, you need to fly on Thanksgiving Day.

People traveling by trains, bus or cruise ships will also be up, but only slightly year-over-year. AAA says that, nationally, 1.49 million people will opt for one of those “other” modes of transportation, an increase of 1.4%. Georgia will have 30,200 of those passengers, up a single percentage point.

Gas prices have been fluctuating lately, but last week were below 2018 levels. Nationally, the average for a gallon of gas was $2.607, according to AAA’s Daily Fuel Gauge Report. That’s 6 cents less than U.S. motorists were paying last year on Nov. 14. For the majority of Americans, AAA expects gas prices to be fairly similar to last year’s Thanksgiving holiday, which averaged $2.57.

The fuel price picture is better in Georgia, where the average cost is $2.424, down just over a dime a gallon from last year. Metro Albany gas pumps averaged $2.381 last week, 7.3 cents below 2018.

AAA support teams, meanwhile, also expect a busy holiday period. Officials with the organization anticipate that more than 368,000 motorists will call AAA for roadside assistance. The top problems? Dead batteries, flat tires and lockouts will be the leading reasons AAA members will experience car trouble.

Officials with AAA recommend motorists take their vehicles to a trusted repair facility for any needed maintenance before hitting the road.