MADISON -- AAA projects that 48.7 million Americans will journey 50 miles or more from home this Thanksgiving, an increase of one million travelers compared with last year. This represents a 1.9 percent increase over 2015, and the most Thanksgiving travelers since 2007.
Why the Increase?
According to a press release, this year’s increase in Thanksgiving travel is spurred by improvements in the economy during the second half of the year, including rising wages, increased consumer spending and overall strength in consumer confidence. Despite incremental increases in the national average price of gasoline during the past couple months, AAA estimates U.S. drivers have saved more than $28 billion so far at the pumps this year compared to the same period last year.
“This is the most traveled holiday of the year, and as usual, there is an emphasis on road trips,” said Joseph J. Richardson Jr., President and CEO of AAA – The Auto Club Group. “If you are one of the 43.5 million people on the road, we urge you to be patient in traffic and limit distractions while behind the wheel.”
The Thanksgiving holiday travel period is defined as Wednesday, Nov. 23, through Sunday, Nov. 27 – the same duration as last year. The most popular travel dates are the Wednesday before the holiday and the Sunday after.
|National||48.7 million||+1.8%||43.5 million||+1.9%||3.7 million||+1.6%||1.4 million||+0.8%|
Driving remains most popular mode of travel for Thanksgiving
The vast majority—more than 89 percent—of holiday travelers will drive this Thanksgiving, according to AAA. The 43.5 million Americans planning a Thanksgiving road trip represents an increase of 1.9 percent over last year. Air travel is expected to increase 1.6 percent, with 3.69 million Americans flying to their holiday destinations. Travel by other modes of transportation, including cruises, trains and buses, will increase only slightly this Thanksgiving, to 1.44 million travelers.
Thanksgiving gas prices second-cheapest in nearly a decade
The national average price for a gallon of gasoline is $2.17, 12 cents more than the average price on Thanksgiving Day 2015 ($2.05). If prices dip below last year’s levels, regular unleaded will be the cheapest since 2008, when the national average was $1.85. In Wisconsin, the current average price of $2.03 is almost a quarter less than this time last year ($2.27). Average pump prices in Minnesota are generally cheaper than in Wisconsin, while those traveling south to Illinois will see higher prices along their route.
“Gas prices are now on a similar course as last year, due in large part to lower oil prices,” said Nick Jarmusz, Wisconsin director of public affairs for AAA – The Auto Club Group. “On this day last year, pump prices began a streak of declines that continued through the end of the month. Whether that happens again will depend on which direction oil prices go from here.”
Thanksgiving airfares, hotel rates and car rental prices mixed
According to AAA’s Leisure Travel Index, airfares are projected to increase 21 percent this Thanksgiving, landing at an average of $205 for a roundtrip flight for the top 40 domestic routes. Rates for AAA Three Diamond Rated lodgings are expected to remain flat, with travelers spending an average of $155 per night. The average rate for a AAA Two Diamond Rated hotel has risen four percent with an average nightly cost of $123. Daily car rental rates will average $52, 13 percent lower than last Thanksgiving.
Many travelers will journey west this Thanksgiving
This year’s top destinations for Thanksgiving include many popular west coast cities, as well as perennial family-friendly favorites. The most popular destinations this Thanksgiving, based on AAA.com bookings, are: