Drumroll, please! AAA says Americans are making Thanksgiving getaways to some places that are not that surprising — however, they are avoiding visiting one major city that has been a big destination in the past.
Holiday travelers make their way through Orlando International Airport Tuesday, Nov. 24, 2020, in Orlando, Florida. (AP Photo/John Raoux)
With a surge in travelers expected Thanksgiving week to near pre-pandemic levels, many aren’t just craving turkey and the trimmings.
Many eager vacationers are also setting their sights on sunny, warmer regions as they look to escape the cold weather and hectic everyday lives.
“Travelers are seeking out warm, tropical weather for their top destinations. Beaches mostly top the list,” Ellen Edmonds of AAA told AccuWeather. “But we’re also seeing some favorite vacation spots like Orlando.”
“Caribbean destinations and Mexico are trending” as well, said Erika Richter, spokesperson for the American Society of Travel Advisors (ASTA), who noted that many trips were booked months in advance.
Even more interesting than the spots that made the cut was the one major city that got knocked off.
Here’s a look at the 10 top Thanksgiving destinations, in the U.S. and abroad, according to AAA’s review of tourist bookings. In the United States:
1. ORLANDO, Florida
Guests watch a show near a statue of Walt Disney and Micky Mouse in front of the Cinderella Castle at the Magic Kingdom at Walt Disney World in Orlando, Florida in January 2019. (AP Photo/John Raoux)
2. ANAHEIM, California
A family takes a photo in front of Sleeping Beauty’s Castle at Disneyland in Anaheim, Calif., April 30, 2021. (AP Photo/Jae Hong)
3. NEW YORK CITY
4. DALLAS/FORT WORTH, Texas
A Southwest Airlines jet prepares to take off from Love Field in Dallas on June 24, 2020. (AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez)
5. PHOENIX, Arizona
The downtown Phoenix skyline on April 7, 2020. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)
6. HONOLULU, Hawaii
Tourists enjoy the beach at the Kahala Hotel & Resort in Honolulu in November 2020. (AP Photo/Jennifer Sinco Kelleher)
7. KAHULUI, Maui, Hawaii
Black Sand Beach, Maui, Hawaii.
8. ATLANTA, Georgia
9. TAMPA, Florida
10. FORT LAUDERDALE, Florida
New to the list since the 2019 pre-pandemic travel season are Dallas/Fort Worth and Atlanta. Also, Kahului on Maui, Hawaii moved up a notch, bumping the Sunshine State’s Tampa and Fort Lauderdale to the bottom of the list.
One key spot, however, that was noticeably absent from this year’s list of favorites? Las Vegas. The city had made the list every year since AAA first kicked it off five years ago.
Travel advisors said they’re not surprised by the destinations Americans have chosen for Thanksgiving getaways — and the weather is a factor.
“Sun and sand remains the most popular choice this holiday season,” Richter told AccuWeather. And “with the return of cruising well underway, bookings for the holidays at sea are picking up as well.”
According to the AccuWeather forecast, temperatures next week for the top destinations are shaping up to be shorts and flip-flops weather — Orlando and Anaheim will boast temperatures in the 70s, Phoenix could top 80 and Hawaii, as usual, should be well into the 80s.
Top international spots
Jetting off to an exotic, far-flung place might be more agreeable — if it’s within your budget.
Topping the list of international destinations Americans are escaping to for Thanksgiving, according to AAA, are:
1. CANCUN, Mexico
Tourists enjoy the beach in Cancun, Mexico in August 2021. (AP Photo/Marco Ugarte)
2. MONTEGO BAY, Jamaica
Crystal clear water meets the shore in Aruba in this file photo. (AP Photo/Shoun A. Hill)
4. LOS CABOS, Mexico
U.S. tourist Latron Evans and his partner Nika, at the beach in Tulum, Mexico, on Jan. 4, 2021. (AP Photo/Emilio Espejel)
5. NASSAU, Bahamas
A woman walks along a beach in the Bahamas in August 2019. (AP Photo/Ramon Espinosa)
6. ST. LUCIA, West Indies
7. DUBLIN, Ireland
A couple takes in the panoramic view on the Bray-to-Greystones cliff walk south of Dublin, Ireland. (AP Photo/Shawn Pogatchnik)
8. TIE: TEL AVIV, Israel. and CALGARY, Canada
Tel Aviv, Israel in a 2013 file photo. (AP Photo/Oded Balilty)
9. PARIS, France
The Eiffel Tower is seen from the Champ-de-Mars in Paris, France in June 2021. (Photo/Riccardo Milani/Hans Lucas)
The AccuWeather forecast calls for most of the tropical destinations to remain sunny and warm come Thanksgiving week — Jamaica is expected to hold steady in the high 80s while Aruba will reach into the 90s.
And for international jaunts, it’s not just the beach and balmy temperatures beckoning. Some travelers are apparently looking to spend some time in the big city — and brave the colder weather — like illustrious Paris and Calgary, which both ranked as popular getaways this year.
Each should see highs in the 40s and 30s, respectively, according to AccuWeather’s forecast.
Richter said travel agencies have been scrambling to meet the greater demand for vacation getaways this year, even for those who put off booking a trip closer to the holidays.
“Many people are looking for last-minute ‘deals,’ but this year things booked up early,” travel advisor Jennifer Chaffer, of Chicago-area Journeys Travel Inc., told AccuWeather. “We’re moving guests to spring ’22.”
Richter noted that deals “are increasingly hard to find these days as more travelers are getting back out there and reconnecting with loved ones.”
With Thanksgiving travel expected to reach pre-pandemic levels, checking in before arriving to the airport, only bringing a carry-on, and booking the first flight out are some suggestions to reduce any travel delays with the large crowds.
Some key tips to keep in mind
Wherever you’re headed, AAA is cautioning travelers to be prepared for roads and airports to be noticeably more crowded.
With the widespread availability of vaccines, more people — around 6.4 million — will be traveling this Thanksgiving, and AAA’s Edmonds said that infusion of travelers will bring transit volumes within 5% of pre-pandemic levels of 2019.
In fact, this year’s AAA travel forecast marks the highest single-year increase in Thanksgiving travelers since 2005.
While all modes of transportation will experience a rise, air travel will see the greatest increase in travelers.
In all, AAA estimates that nearly 54 million people will be venturing away from home during the holiday week. Of those travelers, 48.3 million are expected to travel by car — down only 3% from 2019 — with AAA noting that’s even more than the number of people who traveled by car in 2018.
If you do travel abroad, keep in mind that rules for non-vaccinated and vaccinated visitors vary from location to location, so be sure to check out the various rules before booking and leaving for the airport.
And use a flight tracker like FlightAware to check for any delays or cancellations.
More to explore:
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