Thanksgiving: Americans Travel to Be with Family

Child sitting on luggage with face in hands, next to a cart piled high and a long line of airline passengers (AP Images)
Passengers queue at an American airport. Thanksgiving is a busy travel season in the U.S.

Thanksgiving marks the busiest travel season of the year in the United States — a fact that would come as no surprise to these weary travelers in line at Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport. At this time of year, Americans travel long distances and put up with congested roads or long lines at airports just to be with their families.

Thanksgiving Day falls on the fourth Thursday in November, but it is quite common for people to take a day of vacation on the Friday immediately afterward to make a four-day weekend.

Nearly 43 million travelers will drive, fly or take trains or buses during a five-day period surrounding the 2011 Thanksgiving holiday, according to the American Automobile Association. Automobile travel is the most popular transportation choice, accounting for more than 38 million people traveling.

Another organization that keeps track of Thanksgiving travel is the Air Transport Association of America. However, it looks at a longer time period — 12 days — and estimates that nearly 21 million Americans will be flying then.

Whatever the numbers, the roads and airports and train stations will be crowded. But once Americans arrive at their destinations and sit down to a turkey dinner with their families and friends, they give thanks and feel that the travel was worth it.