AAA: More people planning Thanksgiving travel

Richard Pratt
Published: November 16 2010 | 3:28 pm - Updated: 31 March 2014 | 8:31 am in
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AAA today projected the number of Americans traveling for the Thanksgiving holiday will increase 11.4 percent from 2009, with approximately 42.2 million travelers taking a trip at least 50 miles away from home. Last year, 37.9 million Americans traveled during the Thanksgiving holiday. The 2010 Thanksgiving holiday travel period is defined as Wednesday, November 24 to Sunday, November 28.

“While Americans remain cautious with household budgets and discretionary spending amidst high levels of unemployment, many are in a better financial position this Thanksgiving than a year ago,” said AAA President and CEO Robert L. Darbelnet. “This improvement, along with a strong desire to spend time with friends and family, is expected to propel a significant increase in Thanksgiving travel.”

The forecasted double-digit increase in Thanksgiving holiday travel would signify an important upturn in travel volume for the holiday after a year of negligible growth in 2009 (0.2 percent) and two years after a historic 25.2 percent decline in travel in 2008. While the forecast for an 11.4 percent increase in Thanksgiving travel is significant, the increase in the number of travelers by 4.3 million is less than half of the volume lost from 2007 through 2009. Moreover, this year’s expected 42.2 million travelers remain almost 30 percent below the 2005 peak of 58.6 million travelers.

This year’s projected increase in holiday travel appears to be the result of modestly improved economic conditions since last year, including an increase in gross domestic product, real disposable personal income and household net worth combined with a decrease in consumer debt. While job growth has been minimal and unemployment remains high, the unemployment rate has remained stable, which is an improvement from 2008 and 2009 when job losses were mounting each quarter.

AAA’s projections are based on economic forecasting and research by IHS Global Insight. The Boston-based economic research and consulting firm 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. The complete AAA / IHS Global Insight 2010 Thanksgiving holiday forecast can be found at AAA.com/news.

AAA has forecast an increase in travel for each of the travel holidays this year. In addition to the forecast, AAA travel agents are continuing to report strong increases in the number of travelers making advanced reservations. Hotel, car and vacation package reservations for the upcoming Thanksgiving holiday are up more than 10 percent compared to last year.

AAA reminds travelers that the motor club offers a variety of trip planning tools including:

  • Free printed TourBook guides and maps for members
  • The online TripTik® Travel Planner, available free to all travelers at AAA.com
  • Three free mobile applications that offer on-the-go access to AAA travel information and services:
  • AAA TripTik Mobile iPhone app provides updated gas prices, maps and directions functionality, and information on AAA Approved hotels, restaurants and attractions.
  • With AAA Roadside iPhone app, AAA members requiring emergency road service can quickly send their location, vehicle description and specific breakdown details directly to AAA without placing a phone call.
  • The AAA Discounts iPhone app, which has been downloaded more than 900,000 times, uses GPS technology to identify a user’s location and displays nearby businesses that offer members AAA Show Your Card & Save® discounts. A version of the AAA Discounts app is also available for Android-platform smartphones.

The iPhone apps are available for download from the Apple iTunes Store, and the Android appis available for download from the Android Market.

Travel by automobile remains dominant mode of transportation

Trips by automobile remain the dominant mode of transportation for holiday travel with 94 percent of travelers, or 39.7 million people, reaching their destination by driving. This is an increase of 12 percent from last Thanksgiving when 35.5 million Americans reached their destination by motor vehicle.

With nearly 40 million travelers expected on the roads this Thanksgiving, history tells us many will experience roadside breakdowns or other automotive problems during their journey. To help avoid car trouble and unnecessary delays during holiday travel, AAA recommends that travelers perform several key car care tasks at least one week prior to hitting the road to allow time to address any issues they may uncover. Some basic items most travelers can check themselves include tire tread, tire pressure, wiper blades and battery connections. AAA also advises travelers whose vehicles are due or past due for regularly scheduled maintenance to have a qualified technician inspect their vehicle prior to a road trip. The AAA Approved Auto Repair program is a free public service that helps consumers find quality auto repair shops they can trust.

More in-depth automotive tips for holiday travelers are available at AAA.com/news.

Air travel expected to increase

Leisure air travel is expected to account for four percent of overall travel with 1.62 million holiday flyers, an increase of 3.5 percent from last year’s 1.57 million flyers. Trips by other modes, including rail, bus and watercraft, will be the dominant means of travel used by two percent of all travelers.

Median spending projected to be $495; average distance traveled 816 miles

Based on a survey of traveler intentions, the average distance traveled by Americans this Thanksgiving holiday is expected to be 816 miles, virtually the same as one year ago (815 miles). Median spending is expected to be $495, roughly the same as last year when median spending was $494. Thanksgiving travel tends to be less expensive compared to other travel holidays because of its emphasis on the Thanksgiving meal and the gathering of friends and family. A majority of survey respondents (82 percent) reported that the main purpose of their upcoming trip was a visit with friends or family.

Airfares and hotel rates increase over holiday, car rental rates decrease

According to AAA’s Leisure Travel Index, airfares over Thanksgiving are expected to increase four percent from last year with an average lowest round-trip rate of $176 for the top 40 U.S. air routes. Weekend daily car rental rates will decrease four percent to an average of $42. Hotel rates for AAA Three Diamond lodgings are expected to increase six percent from a year ago with travelers spending an average of $136 per night compared to $128 last year. Travelers planning to stay at AAA Two Diamond hotels can expect to pay four percent more at an average cost of $96 per night.

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