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84% More Thanksgiving Travelers Expected This Year Compared to 2016

Credit: Amtrak

While demand is higher, average bus and train ticket prices are lower than they were at this time last year.


With millions of people heading home to feast on turkey and pumpkin pie with their families, Thanksgiving week is traditionally one of the busiest periods for travelers in the United States. Over the past couple years, people hitting the road by bus or train has been growing steadily and this year is no exception.

To find out how travel trends have shifted this time around, we looked into Wanderu’s trip booking data and it appears that Thanksgiving 2017 is going to be the busiest one yet.

The information below is based on data from Wanderu’s reservation system and represents bus and train tickets that were booked for travel within North America in the period November 21-23, 2017. The data quoted for 2016 applies to the period of November 22-24, 2016.

Thanksgiving Travelers: 2017 vs. 2016

Based on the number of bus and train trips that have already been booked on and through the Wanderu app, in addition to anticipated upcoming and last-minute bookers, this year’s Thanksgiving holiday is expected to bring an 84% increase in the number of travelers.

Best Day to Travel

Date % of
Saturday, November 18 13.51%
Sunday, November 19 15.59%
Monday, November 20 10.34%
Tuesday, November 21 20.64%
Wednesday, November 22 28.70%
Thursday, November 23 11.23%

*Percentage of expected travelers per day for the period of November 18-23, 2017. 

As evident in the table above, the busiest travel day leading up to Thanksgiving will be the Wednesday right before the holiday when more than a quarter of all travelers for the Nov 18-23 period will be hitting the road. If you can be flexible and want to experience the least amount of traffic, plan to travel on Monday or early on Thanksgiving morning.

The Most Popular Destinations for Thanksgiving Travelers

In the table below, you can find the top 10 destinations across North America where people will be traveling for Thanksgiving by bus or train. On the right, you can see the top three cities from which people are traveling to each destination.

Destination Top Origin
1. New York, NY Boston, MA Washington, DC Providence, RI
2. Washington, DC New York, NY Boston, MA Philadelphia, PA
3. Boston, MA New York, NY Philadelphia, PA Washington, DC
4. Philadelphia, PA New York, NY Boston, MA Pittsburgh, PA
5. Chicago, IL St. Louis, MO Ann Arbor, MI Columbus, OH
6. Newark, NJ Boston, MA Washington, DC Pittsburgh, PA
7. Providence, RI New York, NY Boston, MA Washington, DC
8. Baltimore, MD New York, NY Boston, MA Washington, DC
9. Hartford, CT Boston, MA New York, NY Washington, DC
10. Albany, NY Boston, MA New York, NY Providence, RI

Average Ticket Prices* for Top Destinations: 2016 vs. 2017

In spite of the huge surge in the number of travelers this year, most top destinations saw a drop in the average price for a bus or train trip. With the exception of Newark, NJ and Baltimore, MD, Thanksgiving travelers would be relieved to find out that they will be spending less on travel this holiday season. That is mainly due to increased supply and a greater variety of trips offered by bus and train carriers compared to 2016.

Destination 2016 2017 % Change
1. New York, NY $47.06 $42.84 -9.9%
2. Washington, DC $48.64 $43.41 -12%
3. Boston, MA $50.02 $48.19 -3.8%
4. Philadelphia, PA $50.12 $49.43 -1.4%
5. Chicago, IL $48.76 $48.06 -1.5%
6. Newark, NJ $74.59 $79.06 +6%
7. Providence, RI $42.17 $38.16 -10.5%
8. Baltimore, MD $50.16 $52.92 +5.5%
9. Hartford, CT $36.79 $31.66 -16.2%
10. Albany, NY $39.72 $34.13 -16.3%

*Based on the average price of all bus and train travel options available to each destination.

Thanksgiving is going to be one of the busiest holidays of the year when it comes to travel. As a result, it has strongly affected bus and train travel trends across North America, bringing a record number of travelers to the roads of the United States and Canada.

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About the author
Staffo Dobrev

Staffo Dobrev

Having lived in some of the greatest cities in the world, Staffo has always had a soft spot for travel and adventures. Instead of hitting the usual tourist attractions, though, Staffo prefers to make friends with local people and check out fun places and activities that are not in the travel books.

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