AAA projects that 38.4 million Americans will be traveling 50 miles or more away from home over the Thanksgiving holiday weekend a 1.4 percent increase over last year when 37.8 million traveled. Of those travelers, the number going by automobile is expected to be 33.2 million in 2009 compared to 32.5 million last year an increase of 2.1 percent.
Last year, Thanksgiving travel dropped 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, AAA says.
Eighty-six percent of Thanksgiving vacationers are expected to travel by automobile, while only six percent say they will go by air. The number of travelers by air is expected be 2.3 million compared to 2.5 million in 2008 a decline of 6.7 percent. The number of those traveling by other means, including, trains, watercraft, buses and multiple-modes of transportation, is expected to be 2.9 million compared to 2.8 million last year an increase of 1.2 percent, AAA says.
In October, the time when most people make Thanksgiving travel decisions, average gasoline prices were approximately 54 cents cheaper than they were in October 2008. Despite increases in gasoline prices since October this year, most people will not change their decision to fly verses drive since seat availability becomes more limited and airline ticket prices increase as the holiday approaches.
Although many Americans remain unemployed or under other financial stress, AAA’s projected increase in Thanksgiving travel from one year ago is another hopeful sign that economic conditions are stabilizing and improving in some areas, says AAA’s Director of Travel Services Glen MacDonell.