AAA Forecasts Decline in Thanksgiving Travel

AAA is predicting a slight decline in the number of U.S. travelers during the Thanksgiving holiday weekend. Approximately 41 million Americans will travel 50 miles or more from home this year, a decrease of 600,000 travelers (1.4 percent) from last year's total of 41.6 million. This is the first decline in Thanksgiving holiday travel since 2002 and is the fourth consecutive travel holiday this year with a year-to-year decline in the number of travelers.

More than 33.2 million Americans (81 percent of all holiday travelers) expect to travel by automobile, a 1.2 percent decrease from the 33.6 million people who drove a year ago. The national average for self-serve regular gasoline is $2.07 per gallon. Today's price is 88 cents less than a month ago and $1.03 less than a year ago. The AAA Fuel Gauge Report website ( lists average daily prices for the nation, all 50 states and more than 250 localities for all grades of gasoline.

Nearly 4.54 million (11 percent of holiday travelers) plan to travel by airplane, a 7.2 percent decrease from the 4.89 million travelers who flew last year.

Approximately 3.26 million Americans (eight percent of holiday travelers) intend to travel by train, bus or other mode of transportation. That is an increase of 5.8 percent (or 180,000 travelers) when compared to the 3.08 million who traveled by a mode other than automobile or airplane last year.

According to AAA's Leisure Travel Index (LTI), which is based on available rates this holiday, Thanksgiving holiday travelers can expect to pay more for airfares and car rentals this year. Air passengers can expect airfares 8 percent higher than last year. AAA advises travelers that many changes have occurred since the last holiday travel season. Most airlines continue to charge fees for checked baggage and other previously complimentary services like beverages and snacks. Travelers should check with the airline or their travel counselor about any additional fees for their trip.

On average, car rental prices are 4 percent higher than a year ago for the same period. Car rental rates vary from location to location, so some cities in AAA's LTI show significant increases when compared to last year, while others show significant decreases. AAA's index for car rentals is based on the average lowest intermediate size car daily rate in 20 U.S. airport locations. The rates do not include sales tax, insurance and other miscellaneous charges.

Thanksgiving travelers across the country, however, will find bargains when looking to book their hotel stay this year. Rates for AAA Three Diamond hotels are down an average of 10 percent compared to last year.

Research for Thanksgiving weekend holiday travel projections are derived from the Travel Industry Association's (TIA) Holiday Travel Forecast Model. The model was developed based on consumer travel intentions and TIA's quarterly travel forecast data. The travel intentions data are collected through an online survey of over 2,000 adults nationwide, supplemented by an additional 6,500 Americans surveyed from the top 10 states of origin in the United States. Historical travel volume and other economic data such as GDP, disposable income, employment and travel costs (including fuel prices) are also incorporated into the model. Analysis of the data and the forecasts are produced by the Travel Industry Association, which conducts special research for AAA.