Increases in both air and auto travel will push Thanksgiving travel volumes above pre-9/11 levels for the first time, according to AAA.
AAA estimates that 37.2 million Americans will travel 50 miles or more from home this holiday, representing a 3.1 percent increase from last year’s 36.1 million.
Approximately 30.6 million travelers, or 82% of all holiday travelers, expect to go by motor vehicle, a 2.9% increase from the 29.8 million who drove a year ago.
Another 4.6 million, or 12%, plan to go by airplane, up almost 4 percent from last Thanksgiving. A projected 2 million vacationers, 5%, will go by train, bus or other mode of transportation.
“Increased confidence in both the economy and in airline security are major reasons for the growth in travel,” said Dawn Duffy, AAA spokeswoman. “Despite increased airfares, hotel rates and gas prices, Thanksgiving travel is expected to surpass 2000 levels for the first time.”
Thanksgiving holiday travelers will find airfares up 2.6 percent from last year, reflecting increases in demand that, on many routes, have exceeded airline capacity growth. Holiday hotel rates are up 5.7 percent, in keeping with the recent uptick in occupancy across the country. Gas prices currently averaging $1.97 nationwide, down six cents during the last two weeks, but about 47 cents higher than a year ago.
The one savings for travelers will be on rental cars, with rates down 2.7 percent from last Thanksgiving.
The greatest number of Thanksgiving auto travelers will originate in the Southeast with 8.8 million; followed by the West, 6.8 million; Midwest, 6.6 million; Great Lakes, 6.0 million; and Northeast, 2.4 million.
The West and Southeast are expected to produce the largest number of air travelers, each with 1.3 million, followed by the Northeast and Midwest with 700,000 each; and Great Lakes, 600,000.
Small towns and rural areas top the list of preferred destinations, with 40 percent of the travel volume. Cities are the destination for 36% of travelers, followed by oceans and beaches, 9%; mountains, 5%; lakes, 2%; theme/amusement parks, 2%; and state/national parks, 2%. Another 3% responded with other and 1% said they didn’t know.
Of the total Thanksgiving travelers, 63% will stay with friends or relatives and 23% expect to stay at a hotel/motel. Other overnight plans include cabin/condo, 3%; camper/trailer/RV/tent, 2%; bed and breakfast, 1%, other, 1%; no overnight stay, 3%; and didn’t know, 4%.