The AAA Thanksgiving holiday travel forecast is perhaps an indicator that the economy, long spinning its wheels, might be getting back on course.
The motoring and leisure travel organization projects 42.5 million travelers will journey at least 50 miles from home this week, an increase of four percent over the holiday period in 2010. This marks the second year of modest growth since the 25.2 percent decline in 2008, the AAA report said, the Thanksgiving holiday travel period is defined as Wednesday, Nov. 23 to Sunday, Nov. 27.
AAA noted that this is “the first significant increase” in holiday travel this year. Memorial Day travel was flat, while Independence Day and Labor Day travel was thrown in reverse with decreases of 2.5 percent and 2.4 percent, respectively.
Ninety percent of holiday travelers (just over 38 million people) are forecast to drive to their Thanksgiving destinations, up four percent from Thanksgiving 2010. Lower gas prices may be fueling a return to the road. While the current national average price for unleaded gasoline is about 50 cents more than last year, it is about 60 cents less than this year’s peak price of $3.98 a gallon reached last May.
Almost 3.4 million vacationers (eight percent of holiday travelers) will fly over the Thanksgiving holiday, a 1.8 percent increase from 2010, AAA projects. However, with Thanksgiving airfares reportedly 20 percent higher than last year, it is not surprising that alternative modes of transportation, including bus and trains, is forecast to be 14.7 percent higher than in 2010.
AAA’s survey of travel intentions did find that travelers are staying closer to home. The average distance Americans will travel during Thanksgiving this year is expected to be 706 miles, a decline of 13.5 percent from last year. But 60 percent of travelers said that the economy will have no impact on their travel plans. The rest said they do intend to scale back their travel plans.
Investors surveyed by Millionaire Corner last September expressed similar grounded attitudes toward holiday travel. Almost half (46 percent) said they would be keeping closer to home. Of the 19.9 percent who said the would be traveling more, more than a third (36 percent) were under the age of 40 over the upcoming holidays. Of the 19.9 percent who said they would be traveling more
while almost half (46 percent) said they would keeping close to home and hearth. But the troubled economy can’t keep younger people tied down. The highest percentage of those who said they will be traveling more this year than last (36 percent) are under the age of 40, who may have less financial baggage to manage.
Donald Liebenson writes news and features for Millionaire Corner. He has been published in the Chicago Tribune, The Chicago Sun-Times, The Los Angeles Times, Fiscal Times, Entertainment Weekly, Huffington Post, and other outlets. He has also served as a marketing writer for Chicago-based Questar Entertainment and distributor Baker & Taylor.
A graduate of the University of Southern California, he is married with a college-age son. He also writes extensively about entertainment.