Number of travelers declines slightly from four-year high in 2012
AAA projects 43.4 million Americans will journey 50 miles or more from home during the Thanksgiving holiday weekend, a decrease of 1.5 percent from the 44 million people who traveled last year. This decrease falls just shy of last Thanksgiving's four-year peak since the recession-driven declines in 2008-09 when Thanksgiving travel fell by 25 percent. The Thanksgiving holiday travel period is defined as Wednesday, Nov. 27, to Sunday, Dec. 1.
Highlights from this year's 2013 AAA Thanksgiving holiday travel forecast include:
•Thanksgiving travelers to total 43.4 million, a decrease of 1.5 percent from 44 million last year.
•Ninety percent of travelers, or 38.9 million, to travel by automobile, a decline of 1.6 percent.
•Median spending expected to drop nearly 7 percent, to $465, compared to $498 last year.
•Holiday air travel to decline 3.7 percent, to 3.14 million travelers, from 3.26 million in 2012.
•Average distance traveled to increase to 601 miles from 588 miles.
•The Wednesday before Thanksgiving will be the busiest single day of travel with 37 percent of travelers departing for trips Nov. 27.
"While the economy continues to improve, the sluggish pace of the recovery is creating uncertainty in the minds of some consumers and, therefore, AAA is projecting a slight decline in the number of Thanksgiving travelers this year," said Tony Spada, president and CEO of AAA Western and Central New York. "The primary focus of Thanksgiving, more so than any other holiday, is to gather with friends, family and loved ones. Overall, millions of Americans will cast aside fiscal uncertainty to celebrate with the people who matter most in their lives."
Impact of gasoline prices on travel plans
AAA estimates most drivers will pay the cheapest gas prices for the Thanksgiving holiday since 2010, providing consumers with real savings that could be used for other purposes on the trip. The national average for a gallon of gasoline is currently $3.21 per gallon, down 20 cents from last year. In New York, motorists are paying an average of $3.56/gal, down 37 cents from 2012. A gallon of gas in Buffalo is averaging $3.56, down 32 cents from last year.
Wednesday before the holiday will be busiest travel day
The highest volume of travelers plan to leave for their trip the Wednesday before the holiday (37 percent), and return the following Sunday (33 percent), with another 24 percent expecting to return on Monday, Dec 2, or later.
Automobile travel remains dominant mode of transportation; air travel decreases
Approximately 90 percent of travelers (or 38.9 million people) plan to travel by automobile this Thanksgiving, down 1.6 percent from last year. Air travel is expected to decrease 3.7 percent, as 3.14 million holiday travelers will take to the skies. Approximately 1.4 million travelers will choose other modes of transportation, including rail, bus and cruise ship.
Air and hotel rates relatively flat; car rental rates increase 6 percent
According to AAA's Leisure Travel Index, the average lowest round-trip rate for the holiday is $187 for the top 40 U.S. air routes compared to $188 last year.
Thanksgiving holiday hotel rates for AAA Three Diamond lodgings are expected to average $142 per night, compared to $143 last year. AAA Two Diamond hotels are expected to average $105 per night, compared to $104 in 2012. Weekend daily car rental rates will average $50, compared to $47 last year.
Average travel distance increases
The average distance traveled by Americans during the Thanksgiving holiday weekend is expected to be 601 miles, which is an increase of 2.2 percent from last year, when travelers planned to log 588 miles.
Median spending down; visiting family, dining and shopping top activities
Median spending is expected to be $465, a 6.6 percent decrease compared to 2012's expected median spending of $498.
Spending time with family and friends (67 percent) and dining (56 percent) are the most popular activities planned by travelers. Despite lower median spending, nearly half of all travelers (44 percent) plan to shop during the holiday.
As upstate New York's largest member services organization, AAA provides nearly 860,000 members with travel, insurance, financial and automotive-related services. Since its founding in 1900, AAA has been a leading advocate for the safety and security of all travelers. Visit AAA at www.AAA.com.