AAA projects 43.6 million Americans, including 578,500 Oklahomans, 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 nationwide last year and 1.0 percent more among Oklahomans. The Thanksgiving holiday travel period is defined by AAA as Wednesday, Nov. 21 to Sunday, Nov. 25.
Highlights from the 2012 AAA Thanksgiving Holiday Travel Forecast:
· The increase in national travel marks the fourth consecutive year of rising numbers since 2008, when Thanksgiving travel fell by 25 percent.
· Ninety percent of all travel will be done by car or pickup, an increase of 0.6 percent.
· Holiday air travel nationwide will decline to 3.14 million travelers from 3.2 million in 2011. Air travel will also fall in Oklahoma – down 1.2 percent – to 48,750 Oklahomans.
· Median spending is expected to drop 10 percent to $498, compared to $554 last year. Americans continue to prioritize travel to make dollars go further.
· Average distance traveled will decline to 588 miles from 706 miles, due to a decrease in the number of air travelers and a desire to economize budgets.
· Despite mild improvements in unemployment, the housing market and greater consumer optimism, the economy is still struggling to keep its head above water.
“Thanksgiving travel hit a decade low in 2008 when only 37.8 million Americans traveled,” said Chuck Mai, spokesman for AAA Oklahoma. “Since that year we have seen a steady increase in the number of Thanksgiving travelers. Americans continue to find ways to stretch family budgets so they can still gather around the holiday table.”
“While we do not yet know the full impact that Hurricane Sandy will have on travel from the Mid-Atlantic region, we do know the impact for many in that region is substantial,” said Mai.
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 was $2.75 a gallon.
Click on National Fuel Price Overview for today’s national/state/city gas prices or visit www.AAAFuelGaugeReport.com.
Wednesday before the holiday is expected to be busiest travel day
Because the Thanksgiving holiday falls on a Thursday, many are off from work the Friday after, giving travelers the opportunity to spend more time with family and friends. AAA asked intended travelers which days they would depart for and return from Thanksgiving trips.
The majority of travelers plan to leave the Wednesday before the holiday (45 percent) and return the following Sunday (36 percent) with another 25 percent expecting to return on Monday, Nov. 26.
Air travel costs decline
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. Plus, approximately 1.3 million travelers will choose other modes of transportation, including rail, bus and cruise ship.