More than 46 million Americans to travel for Thanksgiving, most since 2007

Online Staff Report

AURORA, Illinois — AAA Travel projects 46.3 million Americans will journey 50 miles or more from home during the Thanksgiving weekend, the highest volume for the holiday since 2007 and a 4.2 percent increase over 2013. Almost 90 percent of travelers (41.3 million) will celebrate the holiday with a road trip and will enjoy the lowest gas prices in nearly four years. The Thanksgiving holiday travel period is defined as Wednesday, Nov. 26, through Sunday, Nov. 30.

In Illinois, there will be 2.4 million travelers, a 5 percent increase from 2013, with 2.16 million traveling by auto (up 5.2 percent from 2013) and about 182,000 traveling by air (a 2.3 percent increase from 2013). In Indiana, there will be 1.1 million travelers this year, a 5.4 percent increase from 2013, with 952,000 traveling by auto (a 5.6 percent increase) and 80,000 traveling by air (a 2.7 percent increase). Gas prices are the lowest they have been since December 2010. In Illinois, the average cost of an unleaded gallon of gasoline is $2.96, and in Indiana, the cost is $2.86.

Highlights from 2014 Thanksgiving Travel Forecast include the following:

Thanksgiving holiday travel volume is expected to reach the highest level since 2007, with 46.3 million Americans taking a trip.

The 2014 forecast is 4.2 percent higher than the 44.4 million Americans who traveled last year and the greatest growth rate for any holiday since Independence Day 2012.

More than 89 percent of travelers (41.3 million) will travel by automobile, a 4.3 percent increase from 39.6 million last year.

Air travel for Thanksgiving is expected to be at the highest level since 2007, with 3.55 million Americans taking to the skies.

Travelers will encounter moderately higher prices with airfares one percent higher, mid-range hotels up eight percent and car rentals costing 10 percent more.

The average distance traveled this Thanksgiving will be 549 miles round-trip and Americans will spend an average of $573 during the holiday weekend.

This year, more Americans will give thanks for the opportunity to travel to friends and family than any year since 2007,” said Beth Mosher, director of public affairs for AAA. “Americans are more optimistic about the future as improvements in several key economic factors, including employment, GDP and disposable income, are boosting consumer confidence and the desire to travel.

Holiday joy has come early this year with Americans paying the lowest gas prices since 2010,” Mosher added. “Lower prices are increasing disposable income and enabling families to carve out more money from household budgets for travel this Thanksgiving.”

Travel expenses rise modestly

According to AAA’s Leisure Travel Index, hotel rates for AAA Three Diamond lodgings are expected to increase eight percent from one year ago with travelers spending an average of $154 per night compared to $142 last year. The average hotel rate for AAA Two Diamond hotels has risen nine percent with an average cost of $114 per night. Weekend daily car rental rates will average $55, 10 percent higher than last year. Airfares will only increase one percent, with an average discounted round-trip rate of $189 across 40 top domestic routes.

Most of travelers’ budgets go toward transportation, food and shopping

Travelers are expected to spend an average of $573 over the course of their holiday travels. Despite lower average gas prices, travelers are allocating 31 percent of their budgets to fuel transportation. Food and beverage and shopping will account for 22 percent and 20 percent of holiday travel budgets, respectively.

Travelers’ spending plans mirror their intended activities this Thanksgiving, with 70 percent of travelers reporting they will enjoy dining during their vacation and 59 percent will go shopping. Eighty-nine percent of travelers plan to spend time with friends and family this Thanksgiving holiday.

AAA’s projections are based on economic forecasting and research by IHS Global Insight. The Colorado-based business information provider teamed with AAA in 2009 to jointly analyze travel trends during the major holidays. AAA has been reporting on holiday travel trends for more than two decades.

Posted Nov. 20, 2014

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