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AAA expects Thanksgiving travel to increase for the fourth consecutive year
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 compared to 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. Driving the modest gain this year are declining gas prices and an improving level of consumer confidence despite a sluggish economic recovery. The Thanksgiving holiday travel period is defined as Wednesday, Nov. 21 to Sunday, Nov. 25.
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.
Locally, the average price of regular unleaded gasoline in Washington is $3.58 per gallon, which is a decrease of nine cents in the past week, 53 cents in the past month, and 17 cents lower than one year ago. In Idaho, the average price of regular unleaded gasoline is $3.70 per gallon, down seven cents from last week and 13 cents in the past month, but 19 cents higher compared to last year.
Approximately 90 percent of travelers, or 39.1 million people, plan to travel by automobile this Thanksgiving. This is a 0.6 percent increase compared to 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, 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. Approximately 1.3 million travelers will choose other modes of transportation, including rail, bus and cruise ship.
According to AAA, 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. Travelers planning to stay at AAA Two Diamond hotels can expect to pay one percent more, at an average cost of $104 per night. Weekend daily car rental rates will average $47, compared to $37 last year, an increase of 27 percent.
AAA’s projections are based on economic forecasting and research by IHS Global Insight. The Colorado-based business information provider teamed with AAA in 2009 to jointly analyze travel trends during the major holidays. AAA has been reporting on holiday travel trends for more than two decades.