Thanksgiving traffic should be lower

November 28, 2013

Fewer Oklahomans are expected to travel this Thanksgiving, according to AAA, but the number is still strong: 574,700.

Of these, 90 percent (517,200) will drive, a decline of 0.7 percent from last year; and 47,400 will fly, down 2.9 percent.

Nationwide, AAA projects 43.4 million Americans will travel over the long Thanksgiving holiday weekend, a decrease of 1.5 percent from the 44 million who traveled last year. This decrease falls just shy of last Thanksgiving’s four-year peak since the recession-driven declines in 2008-2009 when Thanksgiving travel fell by 25 percent. AAA defines the Thanksgiving holiday period as running from Nov. 27 to Dec. 1.

Here are highlights from this year’s AAA Thanksgiving Holiday Travel Forecast:

• Median spending is expected to drop nearly seven percent to $465.

• The Thanksgiving holiday is a less expensive holiday for travelers compared to other holidays. This year, Labor Day spending was expected to be $804, Independence Day $749 and Memorial Day $659.

• Hotel and motel rates are little changed from last year but weekly car rental rates are up six percent.

• At $2.942, self-serve regular gasoline is averaging 20 cents less per gallon in Oklahoma than on Nov. 20, 2012.

• Air travel will decline nationally 3.7 percent to 3.14 million travelers from 3.26 million in 2012

• Average distance traveled is predicted to increase to 601 miles from 588 miles.

• The Wednesday before Thanksgiving will be the busiest single day for travel with 37 percent of travelers departing for trips Nov. 27.

“While the economy continues to improve, the sluggish pace of the recovery is creating uncertainty in the minds of some consumers and therefore AAA is projecting a slight decline in the number of Thanksgiving travelers this year,” said AAA Oklahoma spokesman Chuck Mai. “For those traveling, the good news is motorists will receive a holiday bonus in the form of cheaper gas prices which are at their lowest levels for the holiday since 2010.

“The primary focus of Thanksgiving, more so than any other holiday, is to gather with friends and family. Travelers attempting to carve out a travel budget will be happy to know that Thanksgiving will be the least expensive holiday of the year,” said Mai.

The average price across Oklahoma on Nov. 20th for regular self-serve gasoline was $2.942, the second lowest of all the fifty states. Only Missouri, at $2.885, has a lower statewide average. In fact, drivers can find stations selling gas for less than $3 per gallon in a majority of states.

Approximately 90 percent of travelers or 38.9 million people plan to travel nationwide by automobile this Thanksgiving, a 1.6 percent decrease from last year.  Air travel is expected to decrease 3.7 percent as 3.14 million holiday travelers will take to the skies.

Those traveling by air will find airfares comparable to last year.  For the Thanksgiving holiday the average lowest round-trip rate is $187 for the top 40 U.S. air routes compared to $188 last year. Approximately 1.4 million travelers will choose other modes of transportation, including rail, bus and cruise ship.

Thanksgiving holiday hotel rates for AAA Three Weekend daily car rental rates will average $50; last year they were $47.