More travelers to take to the road this Thanksgiving
Nov 15, 2012 (The Sentinel - McClatchy-Tribune Information Services via COMTEX) --
Slightly more people will be traveling during this year's Thanksgiving holiday, according to AAA's Thanksgiving travel forecast.
AAA projects 43.6 million Americans will travel 50 miles or more from home during the Thanksgiving holiday weekend, an increase of 0.7 percent from the 43.3 million people who traveled last year. This marks the fourth consecutive year of increasing numbers of holiday travelers since 2008, when holiday travel fell by 25 percent.
Though the number of travelers may be up, Shawn Kaup, director of marketing and public relations at AAA Central Penn, said the research also shows that they are traveling shorter distances and spending less money.
"We're seeing that the holiday travel trip is going to be about 588 miles," Kaup said.
He added that the average traveler spent $554 in travel costs, dining and shopping in 2011. The average this year is $498.
Statistics gleaned from travel during the Labor Day holiday showed the economy was a significant factor for families making travel plans and, Kaup said, there's no reason to believe that has changed in the last two months.
"Automobile travel remains the dominant mode of transportation," Kaup said.
Falling gas prices should help cushion the wallet hit for Thanksgiving travelers. Though local prices have dropped 30 cents in the last month, the average price of regular gasoline in Central Pennsylvania remains at $3.56, which is 12 cents higher than the national average.
Nationally, prices are expected to drop to between $3.25 and $3.40 a gallon by the holiday.
Drivers can expect the roads to be the most crowded on Wednesday, Nov. 21, when 45 percent of all those travelling intend to set off on their Thanksgiving trip. The second biggest day will be Sunday, when 36 percent of travelers will start to head home.
With many drivers on the roads, Kaup stresses safety.
"The most important thing, obviously, is to buckle up. We want people to be safe," he said.
That includes children who should be in proper safety seats and pets, which should be secured in carriers.
The best thing drivers can do to make the trip safer and easier is to plan ahead, according to Kaup. Even knowing where to stop to fill the gas tank can be important, as well as keeping the family from stopping in questionable neighborhoods or dealing with difficult exits and entrances to the interstate.
"Don't ever stop out of desperation if you can help it," Kaup said.
Mobile apps, such as the free AAA app, can help with planning by using GPS navigation to help travelers map a route, find current gas prices and nearby member discounts and access AAA roadside assistance.
Kaup also reminded drivers that they should play it safe with cell phones. He suggested turning responsibility for the phone over to a passenger.
"Otherwise, we recommend turning off your phone and putting it away," he said.
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