RICHMOND, VA – AAA projects 43.6 million Americans will journey 50 miles or more from home during the Thanksgiving holiday weekend, an increase of 0.7 percent over the 43.3 million people who traveled last year. This increase marks the fourth consecutive year of growing holiday travelers since 2008 when Thanksgiving travel fell by 25 percent. The Thanksgiving holiday travel period is defined as Wednesday, Nov. 21 to Sunday, Nov. 25.
Highlights from this year's 2012 AAA Thanksgiving Holiday Travel Forecast include:
"Thanksgiving travel hit a decade low in 2008 when only 37.8 million Americans traveled, however, since then we have seen a steady increase in the number of holiday travelers despite high gas prices and the impacts of the recession. " said Martha Mitchell Meade, Manager Public and Government Affairs for AAA Mid-Atlantic. "The allure of the holiday feast and time with family and friends simply remains stronger than any negatives associated with traveling."
"While we do not yet know the full impact that Hurricane Sandy will have on travel from the Mid-Atlantic region, we do know that the impact for many on the East Coast is substantial," continued Meade.
Impact of gasoline prices on travel plans
AAA estimates the national average price of gasoline will drop to between $3.25-3.40 a gallon by the holiday, similar to last year's average of $3.32, which was the most expensive average ever on Thanksgiving. Despite the historically high prices paid by motorists this year, the national average has declined by nearly 40 cents a gallon since early October and should continue to drop through the end of the year. The national average price of gas for Thanksgiving from 2007-2011 is $2.75 a gallon.
Wednesday before the holiday is expected to be busiest travel day
The Thanksgiving holiday is unique falling on a Thursday every year. Many people are off from work the Friday after, giving travelers the opportunity to spend more time with family and friends. Of travelers surveyed the majority plan to leave the Wednesday before the holiday (45 percent) and return the following Sunday (36 percent).
Automobile travel remains dominant mode of transportation, air travel decreases
Approximately 90 percent of travelers or 39.1 million people plan to travel by automobile this Thanksgiving. This is a 0.6 percent increase over the 38.9 million people who traveled by auto last year. Air travel is expected to decrease 1.7 percent as 3.14 million holiday travelers will take to the skies. Those traveling by air will find lower airfares according to AAA's Leisure travel Index. For the Thanksgiving holiday the average lowest round-trip rate is $188 for the top 40 U.S. air routes, an 11 percent decrease from last year.
Hotel rates relatively flat, car rental rates increase 27 percent
According to AAA's Leisure Travel Index, Thanksgiving holiday hotel rates for AAA Three Diamond lodgings are expected to decrease one percent from a year ago, with travelers spending an average of $143 per night compared to $145 last year. Weekend daily car rental rates will average $47, compared to $37 last year.
Average travel distance decreases
According to the survey of intended travelers, the average distance traveled by Americans during the Thanksgiving holiday weekend is expected to be 588 miles, which is a decline of 16.7 percent from last year when travelers planned to log 706 miles.
Median spending down ten percent; visiting family, dining and shopping top activities
Median spending is expected to be $498, a 10 percent decrease compared to the expected median spending of intended holiday travelers ($554) in 2011.
AAA's projections are based on economic forecasting and research by IHS Global Insight. AAA has been reporting on holiday travel trends for more than two decades. The complete AAA / IHS Global Insight 2012 Thanksgiving Holiday Travel Forecast can be found at NewsRoom.AAA.com.
Copyright 2012 by Young Broadcasting of Richmond
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