economic activity

Thanksgiving travel projections rise for 4th consecutive year

BLOOMBERG FILE PHOTO/ANDREW HARRER
PASSENGERS WAIT to board Amtrak trains during the 2011 Thanksgiving holiday. About 43.6 million people are expected to travel 50 miles or more from their home for this year's Thanksgiving holiday, according to AAA Southern New England.
Posted 11/14/12

PROVIDENCE – AAA Southern New England has projected a 0.7 percent rise in Thanksgiving holiday travel, the fourth consecutive year of increases since holiday travel fell 25 percent in 2008.

The trade group estimates that 43.6 million U.S. residents will travel 50 miles or more from their home during the Thanksgiving holiday period between Wednesday, Nov. 21, and Sunday, Nov. 25. This number represents an increase of roughly 300,000 travelers from 2011 numbers.

According to AAA, the total number of Thanksgiving holiday travelers is expected to reach a new post-recession high and is the fourth increase in holiday travel this year after travel increases in the Memorial Day, Independence Day and Labor Day holiday periods.

“Thanksgiving travel hit a decade low in 2008 when only 37.8 million Americans traveled,” Lloyd P. Albert, AAA Southern New England senior vice president of public & government affairs, said in a statement. “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.”

According to a survey of traveler intentions, roughly 39.1 million, or 90 percent, of holiday travelers will make their Thanksgiving journeys by automobile, a rise of 0.6 percent from those who traveled by car in 2011. Roughly 3.14 million will take a trip by air and the approximately 1.3 million Americans will travel by cruise ship, bus or rail.

Those planning to travel by air will find lower costs, according to the trade group’s Leisure Travel Index. The average lowest round-trip rate for air travel was $188 for the top 40 U.S. air routes, a decrease of 11 percent from 2011.

Overall, median spending is expected to cost $498 during this Thanksgiving holiday, a 10 percent drop from the $554 average in 2011.

The average distance traveled will decline to 588 miles from 706 miles, partly due to the 1.9 percent projected drop in air travel as Americans try to economize their budgets.

“The Thanksgiving holiday is unique [in that it falls] on a Thursday every year. Many people are off from work the Friday after, giving travelers the opportunity to spend more time with family and friends,” said the AAA release.

When surveyed, the majority of intended travelers said they planned to leave the Wednesday before the holiday and return the following Sunday.

AAA estimates that 13.3 percent of New Englanders plan to travel during the Thanksgiving holiday weekend. Automobile travel is expected to rise 0.7 percent over 2011, while travel by air is anticipated to fall 1.6 percent.

AAA’s travel projections are based on economic forecasting and research by Colorado-based economic research and consulting firm IHS Global Insight.

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