We came across some cool transportation stats from the Bureau of Transportation Statistics at the Research and Innovative Technology Administration. Just bring being out on the roads, you probably already know that the Thanksgiving and Christmas/New Year’s holiday periods are among the busiest long-distance travel periods of the year. During the 6-day Thanksgiving travel period, the number of long-distance trips (to and from a destination 50 miles or more away) increases by 54 percent, and during the Christmas/New Year’s Holiday period the number rises by 23 percent, compared to the average number for the remainder of the year. And although heavy media attention focuses on crowded airports and bus and train stations on the Wednesday before and Sunday after Thanksgiving, when personal vehicle trips are added to the mix the National Household Travel Survey (NHTS) reveals that Thanksgiving Day is actually a heavier long-distance travel day than Wednesday.
Unlike Thanksgiving, which always falls on the fourth Thursday of November, the Christmas/New Year’s travel period, and the resulting travel pattern, varies depending on the day of the week on which the two holidays fall. In 2001, when Christmas and New Year’s Day fell on Tuesday, the Saturday and Sunday preceding Christmas and Christmas Day were generally the busiest travel days of the entire 17-day holiday travel period. The days immediately following Christmas were generally busier than New Year’s Day and the two following days. In 2003, the holidays are on Thursday, which no doubt will change the travel patterns during the Christmas/New Year’s holiday period.
The average Thanksgiving long-distance trip length is 214 miles, compared with 275 miles over the Christmas/New Year’s holiday. For the remainder of the year, average trip distance is 261 miles.
About half of holiday travelers make same-day trips without spending a night away. Long-distance travelers who make overnight trips at Thanksgiving spend an average of just under three nights away. At the Christmas/New Year’s holiday, the average increases to nearly four nights away. The average during the rest of the year lies between the Thanksgiving and Christmas/New Year’s totals.
Most holiday travel is domestic. Over 99 percent of the long-distance trips that begin during the Thanksgiving holiday period are to destinations within the United States. During the longer Christmas/New Year’s period, however, 3 percent of long-distance travel is international.
Of course, visiting friends and family is the single biggest reason Americans travel during the holidays. Visits account for 53 percent of all Thanksgiving long-distance trips and 43 percent of long-distance trips during Christmas/New Year’s. Visits make up only 24 percent of all long-distance travel during the remainder of the year. While travel to visit family and relatives is up significantly during the holidays, other pleasure and leisure travel remains relatively unchanged.