Bellevue, Wash. (November 18, 2009) – AAA projects that 38.4 million Americans will travel 50 miles or more away from home this Thanksgiving holiday weekend, a 1.4 percent increase compared to last year when 37.8 million Americans traveled.
Last year, Thanksgiving travel dropped a precipitous 25.2 percent in the wake of the ongoing housing and financial crisis. This year’s expected increase in travel reflects improved consumer confidence from one year ago, better financial market performance and a growing sense among many consumers that the worst of the global economic crisis is behind us, according to research released by AAA today.
Travel by Automobile, Air & Other The number of holiday travelers going by automobile is expected to be 33.2 million in 2009, an increase of 2.1 percent. The number of travelers by air is expected be 2.3 million, a decline of 6.7 percent. The number of those traveling by “other” modes, including, trains, watercraft, buses and multiple-modes of transportation, is expected to increase 1.2 percent to 2.9 million, AAA said. Thanksgiving travelers will journey an average of 815 miles roundtrip this upcoming holiday weekend.
Washington State Travelers Washington is expected to be one of the top 20 states to produce Thanksgiving holiday travelers this year. Research indicates that approximately 608,000 (about 9% of pop.) Washingtonians will travel 50 miles or more from home this holiday, up slightly more than 9 percent compared to last year. Of those travelers, AAA projects that approximately 518,000 will go by car, up about 10 percent, and 46,000 will go by air, down less than one percent.
Travelers hitting the road this holiday weekend can expect to see higher prices at the pump compared to last year. The average price of self-serve regular unleaded gasoline in Washington is $2.85/gallon, 62 cents higher than last year. In Idaho, gas prices are also up averaging $2.68/gallon, 49 cents higher than a year ago. And, nationally, the average price sits at $2.63/gallon, 54 cents higher than last year.
Air Travel Trends and Travel Costs This year’s decrease in the number of air travelers continues a decade-long trend in which air travel as a percentage of total Thanksgiving travel has declined substantially. Since 2000, the number of Americans traveling by air during the Thanksgiving holiday weekend has dropped an astounding 62 percent. While much of this decrease can be attributed to ongoing economic difficulties, the air travel experience itself has undergone a substantial change since the 1990s with stricter airport security, more frequent flight delays, reduced capacity, added surcharges and fees, all contributing to the decline. The decline in air travel has contributed to an increase in auto travel.
According to AAA’s Leisure Travel Index - a monitor of pricing in 20 popular US cities for hotel and car rentals, and 40 pairs of cities for air travel pricing – the lowest average published airfares for the Thanksgiving holiday weekend are expected to decrease four percent from last year to an average of $170 per roundtrip ticket. Car rental rates are down three percent to an average of $44 per day for a mid-size car. Rates for AAA Three Diamond lodgings are expected to be 11 percent less than last year; an average of $128 per night. Travelers planning to stay at AAA Two Diamond lodgings will pay 13 percent less than last year; an average of $92 per night.
Holiday Forecast Methodology
AAA’s projections are based on research conducted by IHS Global Insight. For purposes of this forecast the Thanksgiving holiday travel period is defined as trips that include travel of 50 miles or more away from home during the period from Wednesday, November 25 to Sunday, November 29. The complete AAA / IHS Global Insight 2009 Thanksgiving holiday forecast can be found at AAA.com and click on Newsroom or click here.
In cooperation with AAA, IHS Global Insight has developed a unique approach to forecasting actual travel that explicitly considers current economic conditions, past holiday travel trends and behavior, and the recent assessment of pre-holiday American travel intentions derived from a survey of 1,350 American households.* For full details, click here…
AAA Washington has been serving members and the traveling public since 1904. The organization provides a variety of exclusive benefits, including roadside assistance, discounts, maps and personalized trip planning, to its 985,000 members. In addition, its full-service travel and insurance agencies provide products and services for members and the public. Additional information is available through the company’s 26 offices in Washington and northern Idaho, at AAA.com, or by calling 1-800-562-2582.