AAA Predicts Increase in Thanksgiving Travel

The American Automobile Association (AAA) has released its annual Thanksgiving travel forecast, and it looks like this Turkey Day is going to be a busy one—especially for travelers who are planning to drive.

AAA, which makes projections based on economic forecasting and data from business-information provider IHS Global Insight, expects an uptick in Thanksgiving travel for the fourth consecutive year. According to AAA, more than 43 million Americans will travel at least 50 miles over the Thanksgiving holiday period (Wednesday, November 21 through Sunday, November 25), an increase of .07 percent compared to last year.

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In a press release, AAA President and CEO Robert Darbelnet gave this statement: "Thanksgiving travel hit a decade low in 2008 when only 37.8 million Americans traveled. Since that year we have seen a steady increase in the number of travelers taking to the roads and skies for the holiday. Americans continue to find ways to economize their budgets so they can gather around the holiday table to carve the turkey." 

AAA also predicts that more travelers will be choosing to drive instead of fly this holiday. Thanksgiving air travel is projected to drop to 3.14 million flyers, compared to 3.2 million flyers last year. But the number of Americans getting behind the wheel is expected to increase, with 90 percent of holiday travelers hitting the road—a gain of .6 percent compared to 2011.

The takeaway? Get ready for heavily congested roads, especially on Wednesday, November 21. AAA projects that the Wednesday before Thanksgiving will be the busiest travel day of the holiday (as it is every year). In a survey conducted by AAA, 45 percent of travelers said they were leaving on Wednesday. The next busiest travel days will likely be Sunday, November 25 (36 percent of survey respondents said they were traveling this day) and Monday, November 26 (25 percent).

Unfortunately, travelers should anticipate high gas prices in addition to lots of traffic this season, as AAA reports that the national average price of gas will fall somewhere between $3.25 to 3.40 a gallon. Although gas prices have been dropping since October, this rate is still well above the national average cost of gas for Thanksgiving travel from 2007 through 2011, at $2.75 a gallon.

Despite unfavorable gas prices, it appears that plenty of Americans are finding ways to tighten budgets when taking trips for the holidays. Thanksgiving travel spending will drop 10 percent this year, says AAA.

Will this forecast affect your Turkey Day travel plans? Share your thoughts in the comments.

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