More people expected to travel this Thanksgiving
Thanksgiving holiday travel will be the first holiday in 2011 with more people traveling than previous holidays in 2010, according to AAA Carolinas.
More vacationers will fly this year than last year, despite fare increases up to 20 percent and crowded planes.
With a total of 1,248,000 North Carolinas expected to travel 50 miles or more from home, an estimated 99,800 (8 percent) are expected to take to the skies, double the 49,000 fliers last year. Total travel this year, compared to last year, is up 10,000 travelers.
Those choosing to drive will total 1,123,000 (90 percent), down from 1,164,000 last year when 94 percent of holiday travelers choose to drive. Two percent (25,000) will use other modes of transportation, like bus or train, about the same as last year).
“Thanksgiving is the most traditional family holiday with the ‘turkey day’ always coming on a Thursday, creating a guaranteed four-day holiday for many,” said David E. Parsons, president and CEO of AAA Carolinas. “There is continued pent-up demand to get away,” added Parsons, “and the higher gasoline prices — up 50-60 cents from last year — may have prompted more people to fly instead of drive, along with an average 11 percent drop in rental car fees.”
Gas prices have been declining in North Carolina the past week and today the statewide average is $3.351 compared to $3.392 a week ago and $2.804 a year ago. The state average is the same as the national average, with 24 states averaging a lower price and 25 averaging a higher price.
“The good news is we haven’t seen a dramatic spike in prices leading up to the holiday,” said Parsons. “The economic crisis in Europe and decreased demand has helped keep a damper on pump prices.”
Gasoline prices in North Carolina last month consumed an estimated 7.8 to 8.9 percent of household income — close to a record, according to the Oil Price Information Service, which monitors gasoline prices for AAA.
The highest average price is in Boone at $3.402 per gallon of unleaded self-service; the least expensive average price is in High Point at $3.294.
This is the first time in the last four years passenger air travel has increased as travelers appear to be more accepting of baggage fees for baggage, peak fare surcharges, security checkpoints, a reduction in the number of flights, smaller capacity planes and on-board charges for such things as pillows and blankets.
North Carolinians will travel close to home, averaging about 700 miles round trip; the roughly 40 percent of travelers not staying with friends or relatives will find hotel rates up 6 to 7 percent.
There are expected to be no significant construction delays along North Carolina interstates. While all lanes will remain open on Interstates, some sections will have lower speed limits due to ongoing construction.
State and local police are expected to increase patrols to enforce speeding and other traffic laws.
Possible non-interstate delay: U.S. 17 in Windsor (Bertie County) is reduced to one lane over the Cashie River Bridge due to construction. Traffic is controlled by signals; however, commercial trucks are restricted on this route and detour signs are in place. All motorists are encouraged to use the U.S. 17 Bypass around Windsor to avoid possible delays.
An affiliate of the American Automobile Association, AAA Carolinas is a not-for-profit organization that serves more than 1.8 million members with travel, automobile and insurance services while being an advocate for all travelers.