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Thanksgiving travel said to be up by a bit this year

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AAA projects 43.6 million Americans will take a trip of 50 miles or more away from home between Nov. 21-25, the Thanksgiving holiday traveling period.

This represents a 0.7 percent increase from the 43.3 million people who traveled last year.

Auto travel remains the preferred mode of transportation this Thanksgiving, with 39.1 million Americans traveling via automobile, about 90 percent of all travelers.

“Although leisure travel is forecast to make just modest gains from last year, it’s still a positive sign to see growth for the fourth year in a row,” said Brent Hubele, vice president of AAA Travel, The Auto Club Group.

“While the travel industry and those living in the Atlantic region are dealing with the devastating effect of Hurricane Sandy, our hearts and thoughts go out to those whose lives have been so deeply impacted.

“Holiday travel to those regions will most likely be more difficult than in previous years. AAA does not forecast any other major impacts to travel in and out of the lower Mid-Atlantic or Southeast regions.”

In Tennessee, AAA predicts 997,201 people will be traveling over the Thanksgiving holidays.

Of those, 953,041 people will go by automobile, an increase of 1.1 percent over 2011. Other travelers, by bus and train, are at 14,762, an increase of 26.7 percent.

Air travel for the Volunteer State, however, is projected to be down by 1.2 percent, with an estimated 29,398 travelers planning to take to the skies.

AAA forecasts 39.1 million people will travel via automobile this year and represents a 0.6 percent increase from the 38.9 million who drove to their destination last year.

Gas prices are expected to decrease into the Thanksgiving holiday and are not expected to have a major impact on auto travelers.

Last Thanksgiving the national average for a gallon of gasoline was $3.32. The current national average is $3.44.

Air Travel

AAA forecasts 3.1 million travelers will fly to their destination during the upcoming holiday weekend.

Air travel is expected to decrease 1.7 percent from the 3.2 million travelers who flew last year.

2012 represents the second consecutive year of declining air travel.

According to AAA’s Leisure Travel Index, Thanksgiving airfares are forecast to decrease, with the average lowest round-trip rate at $188 for the top 40 U.S. air routes, an 11 percent decrease from last year.

Other Means of Travel

Other modes of travel (bus, train, watercraft) will make up 2.9 percent of the total travel volume.

An estimated 1.3 million travelers are expected to travel by one of these other modes of transportation, which represents a 10 percent increase from last year.

Travel Distance

Travelers intend to journey an average of 588 miles round-trip this Thanksgiving, a decline of 16.7 percent from last year when travelers logged an average of 706 miles.

Southeast travelers are forecast to journey an average of 525 miles round-trip.

Spending

Overall, travelers plan to spend $498 this upcoming holiday, 10 percent less than the $554 spent last year.

However, travelers in the Southeast expect to spend an average of $275 during their holiday trip.

Travel Dates

Wednesday before the holiday is expected to be busiest travel day.

The majority of travelers plan to leave the Wednesday before the holiday (45 percent) and return the following Sunday (36 percent) with another 25 percent expecting to return on Monday.

AAA’s projections are based on economic forecasting and research by IHS Global Insight.

The Colorado-based business information provider 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.