Thanksgiving travel to surpass 2000 levels

Thanksgiving travel to surpass 2000 levels Increases in both air and auto travel will push Thanksgiving travel volumes above pre-9/11 levels for the first time, according to AAA. AAA estimates that 37.2 million Americans will travel 50 miles or more from home this holiday, a 3.1 percent increase from last year's 36.1 million travelers.

"Travelers' increased confidence in both the economy and airline security will make this an extremely busy travel holiday," said AAA spokeswoman Cheri Cihak. "Air fares, hotel rates and gas prices have all increased from last Thanksgiving, yet more of us will be traveling over the holiday than did even in 2000 � considered by many to be the high water mark for the travel industry."

Approximately 30.6 million travelers (82 percent of all holiday travelers) expect to go by motor vehicle, a 2.9 percent increase from the 29.8 million who drove a year ago. Another 4.6 million (12 percent of holiday travelers) plan to travel by airplane, up 4.0 percent from the 4.4 million that flew last Thanksgiving holiday. A projected 2.0 million travelers (5 percent) will go by train, bus, or other mode of transportation, up from 1.9 million a year ago.

Holiday auto travelers will find gas prices nationwide currently averaging $1.97 for a gallon of self-serve regular gasoline � down 6 cents during the last two weeks, but about 47 cents higher than a year ago. Other travel costs are up, as well, with AAA's Leisure Travel Index showing Thanksgiving airfares up 2.6 percent from last year, reflecting increases in demand that on many routes have exceeded airline capacity growth. Holiday hotel rates are up, with a 5.7 percent increase.

The one savings for travelers will be on rental cars, with rates down 2.7 percent.

Although overall costs are up from last year, AAA says many trips will cost less than they did in 2000. According to AAA, increased competition from discount airlines has caused airfares to plummet on many routes and hotel rates have only recently begun to rise after they tumbled during the recession.

Sixty-three percent of Thanksgiving travelers expect to stay at a friend or relative's home. Hotels and motels are a distant second at 23 percent, followed by cabin/condo, 3 percent; camper/trailer/RV/tent, 2 percent; bed and breakfast, 1 percent; other, 1 percent.

; no overnight stay, 3 percent; and didn't know, 4 percent.

Small towns and rural areas are the expected destination for 40 percent of Thanksgiving travelers, followed closely by cities, 36 percent. Oceans and beaches should see 9 percent of travelers, followed by mountain areas, 5 percent; and 2 percent each for lake areas, theme/amusement parks, and state/national parks. Another 3 percent responded with other, and 1 percent said they didn't know.

Research for Thanksgiving holiday travel is based on a national telephone survey of 1,300 adults by the Travel Industry Association of American, which conducts special research for AAA.

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