AAA projects that 48.7 million Americans will journey 50 miles or more from home this Thanksgiving, an increase of 1 million travelers compared to 2015. This represents a 1.9 percent increase over 2015, and the most Thanksgiving travelers since 2007.
This year’s increase in Thanksgiving travel is spurred by improvements in the economy during the second half of the year, AAA says, including rising wages, increased consumer spending and overall strength in consumer confidence. Despite incremental increases in the national average price of gasoline during the past few months, AAA estimates U.S. drivers have saved more than $28 billion at the pumps so far this year compared to the same period last year.
“This is the most traveled holiday of the year, and as usual, there is an emphasis on road trips,” said Joseph J. Richardson Jr., president and CEO of AAA – The Auto Club Group. “If you are one of the 43.5 million people on the road, we urge you to be patient in traffic and limit distractions while behind the wheel.”
AAA says nearly 90 percent of holiday travelers will drive this Thanksgiving despite the slight increase in gas prices. The national average price for a gallon of gasoline is $2.17, or 12 cents more than the average price on Thanksgiving Day in 2015 ($2.05). In Florida, the current average price of $2.15 is 7 cents more than last year’s holiday ($2.08). AAA says if prices dip below last year’s levels, regular unleaded will be the cheapest since 2008, when the national average was $1.85 and Florida’s average was $1.91.
“Gas prices are now on a similar course as last year, due in large part to lower oil prices,” AAA Spokesman Mark Jenkins said. “On this day last year, Florida pump prices began a streak of declines that continued through the end of the month, with the state average falling from $2.20 to $2.07. Whether that happens again will depend on which direction oil prices go from here.”
With so many drivers on the road for the holidays, AAA expects to rescue more than 370,000 motorists due to dead batteries, flat tires, lockouts and other road emergencies. AAA recommends that motorists check the condition of their battery and tires and pack emergency kits in their vehicles before heading out on a holiday getaway. Members can download the AAA app for iphone, iPad and Android, visit AAA.com or call 1-800-AAA-HELP to request roadside assistance or more information.AAA estimates air travel to increase 1.6 percent, with 3.69 million Americans flying to their holiday destinations. According to AAA’s Leisure Travel Index, airfares are projected to increase 21 percent this Thanksgiving, landing at an average of $205 for a roundtrip flight for the top 40 domestic routes.
AAA says travel by other modes of transportation, including cruises, trains and buses, will increase only slightly this Thanksgiving, to 1.44 million travelers.
Rates for AAA Three Diamond Rated lodgings are expected to remain flat, with travelers spending an average of $155 per night. The average rate for a AAA Two Diamond Rated hotel has risen four percent with an average nightly cost of $123. Daily car rental rates will average $52, 13 percent lower than last Thanksgiving.
Based on AAA.com bookings, this year’s top destinations for Thanksgiving include many popular west coast cities, as well as perennial family-friendly favorites: Las Vegas, San Francisco, San Diego, Orlando, New York City, New Orleans, Anaheim, Fort Lauderdale, Philadelphia and Seattle.