Be prepared during Thanksgiving travel

Published 1:26 pm Wednesday, November 21, 2012

For those who are packing up and heading out of town this Thanksgiving, be prepared to see many on the road who had the same idea. According to a report by AAA, an estimated 43.6 million Americans will travel more than 50 miles this week — an increase from last year.

“Thanksgiving travel hit a decade low in 2008 when only 37.8 million Americans traveled,” AAA Alabama spokesperson Clay Ingram said. “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.”

The Thanksgiving holiday travel period is defined as Wednesday, Nov. 21 to Sunday, Nov. 25.

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Ninety percent of travelers, or 39.1 million, are estimated to travel by automobile, an increase of 0.6 percent, while the number of Americans traveling by air is expected to decline this year.

The Thanksgiving holiday is unique, falling on a Thursday every year. Many people are off 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 travel. Among those surveyed, 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.

Wednesday is expected to be the busiest travel day of the season, and 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.

Impact of gasoline prices on travel plans

AAA estimates the national average price of gasoline will drop to between $3.25 to $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 per 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 to 2011 was $2.75 a gallon.