More Travelers Will Drive to Their Destination This Thanksgiving. Should You?

A smiling family sitting around a Thanksgiving table full of food.

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Driving could make a lot of sense this year for various reasons.


Key points

  • If you'll be traveling for Thanksgiving, you may have the option to drive versus fly.
  • Here's how to determine what makes the most sense for you.

Last year, many families spent the Thanksgiving holiday apart due to the raging pandemic. While COVID-19 is still, unfortunately, very much with us, this year, more people may be apt to celebrate with family thanks to the protection offered by vaccines.

But while the health-related risk of traveling for Thanksgiving may be mitigated by vaccines to some degree, the financial risk is still there. Every year, countless consumers risk racking up debt in the course of their holiday spending. If you're planning to fly out to see family this year, you could end up with some pretty hefty balances on your credit cards.

That's why you may want to consider a less expensive way to travel this year. In some cases, that could mean packing up the car and hitting the road.

According to a recent Cars.com survey, of the 57% of Americans who are planning to travel during Thanksgiving, 84% are opting to drive. Here's how to know if that's the right choice for you.

How many people are in your party?

While airfare may be expensive these days, the cost of gas has also soared due to recent inflation. If you're taking a solo trip to see family, you may not save all that much money by driving to your destination as opposed to booking a flight -- especially if you have a travel rewards card that offers money-saving perks like free checked bags.

But if there are multiple people sharing your itinerary, then driving will almost always be less expensive than flying. Even if your car is a gas-guzzler, you can bet that a 300-mile road trip will still be less expensive than booking tickets for a family of four.

How flexible is your schedule?

Many people are working from home these days, which gives them more flexibility when they can hit the road. If you're on a tight schedule, you may need to stick to flying to avoid having to dip into your limited pool of paid days off. But if your schedule isn't so rigid, you could save money by driving to your destination this Thanksgiving.

Of course, this also assumes the drive is a reasonable one. Generally speaking, it won't make sense to take a 17-hour road trip to visit family for a long weekend. But if you can get to your destination within the same day, it could result in a nice amount of savings.

How worried are you about flight cancellations or delays?

When you're traveling for a specific occasion like Thanksgiving, flight delays or cancellations could utterly ruin your plans. The great thing about driving is that you don't have to worry about cancellations. And while traffic could cause it to take longer to reach your destination, you can also use tools like Google Maps to reroute.

Of course, weather-related issues could make the idea of driving a less safe prospect. However, if the forecast is really that extreme, chances are, you would have flight delays to deal with as well.

Driving to your Thanksgiving destination over flying could help you minimize your costs and leave you with more money left over to spend during the remainder of the holiday season. It pays to contemplate these questions and see if driving makes sense for you. If it does, make sure to use a credit card that offers bonus cash back for gas fill-ups so you can snag even more savings.

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