Report: Nearly 51 million Americans to travel this Thanksgiving

AAA forecasts highest travel volume in a dozen years

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AAA projects 50.9 million Americans will travel 50 miles or more from home to visit friends and family for Thanksgiving, a 3.3 percent increase over last year and the most since 2005.

“Thanksgiving kicks off the start of what will likely become the busiest holiday season in more than a decade,” said Vicky Evans, assistant vice president of AAA- The Auto Club Group. "A strong economy and labor market are generating rising incomes and higher consumer confidence. These factors should help fuel consumer spending and generate a strong finish for the travel industry this year.”

Florida forecast

  • Total Travelers: 2.6 million Floridians will travel 50 miles or more; an increase of 80,230 people (3.2%) over last year.
  • Road Trip Ready: 2.3 million will take a Thanksgiving road trip; an increase of 71,786 people (3.2%).
  • Flying High: 190,720 Floridians are forecast to take a flight; the most since 220,000 flew in 2007. The 4.5% y-o-y increase (8,158) is the largest percentage increase among the three major transportation modes.
  • Alternate Travel: 53,860 Floridians will travel by other means like trains, buses, and cruises. The 0.5 percent increase represents 286 more travelers than last year, and the most since 2008.
  • Fueling Up: Gas prices in Florida averaged $2.10 on Thanksgiving 2016. This year, pump prices are likely to be the highest since 2014.

National forecast

  • Road Trippers: 89 percent of all travelers –45.5 million– are planning a Thanksgiving road trip; an increase of 1.6 million people (3.2%) over last year.
  • Cheaper Airfare: Consumers will pay the cheapest average airfare since 2013.  
  • Fuller Skies: The largest growth in holiday travel is by air, at 5 percent, with 3.95 million travelers.
  • Alternate Travel: Travel by train and other modes of transportation (including buses and cruises) is expected to increase 1.1 percent to 1.48 million travelers.
  • Fueling Up: Drivers will pay the highest Thanksgiving gas prices since 2014.
  • Holiday High: Car rental daily rates will hit a five-year holiday high at $70 per day due to an increase in domestic demand and cost of newer vehicles.

Travelers still hitting the road, despite higher gas prices

  • Gas prices surged earlier this month; the state average rose 13 cents in three days and some markets saw an increase of 25 cents.
  • The state average was $2.10 on Thanksgiving 2016, $2.08 in 2015, and $2.79 in 2014.
  • Compared to last year’s holiday, it will cost the average motorist $6 more for a full tank of gasoline.
  • Gas prices in the U.S. are averaging $2.56. 
  • The national average on Thanksgiving Day was $2.13 in 2016, $2.05 in 2015, and $2.80 in 2014.

“AAA expects drivers will pay the highest Thanksgiving gas prices in three years, thanks to strong demand and higher oil prices,” said Mark Jenkins, a spokesman for AAA- The Auto Club Group. “Although it will be more expensive to drive to Grandma’s house compared to recent years, the current price at the pump is not high enough to deter Floridians from taking a trip. Most people have already made their travel plans, and will not cancel them for moderate shifts in gas prices.”

Highs and lows: Car rentals, hotel rates, and airfares

According to AAA’s Leisure Travel Index:

  • Airfares: Air travelers will pay the lowest average airfare in five years for a round-trip flight for the top 40 domestic routes. At $157, on average, airfare has dropped by 23 percent year-over-year.
  • Car Rentals: Travelers can expect to spend their flight savings on car rentals. At $70/day, the daily car rental average is 34 percent higher than last year and the highest for Thanksgiving weekend since 2013.
  • Hotel Rates: Travelers will pay more for AAA Three Diamond Rated hotels this holiday weekend. The average price increased by 14 percent to $176/night. Conversely, the average rate for a AAA Two Diamond Rated hotel has decreased by 5 percent with an average nightly cost of $117.

Top ten Thanksgiving destinations

Many travelers will seek theme-park and warm-weather destinations this Thanksgiving.  Both Orlando, Florida, and Anaheim, California top this year’s top 10 holiday destinations based on AAA.com bookings. Compared to previous years, New York City, Las Vegas and San Francisco are gaining popularity as holiday hot spots.

  1. Orlando, Florida
  2. Anaheim, California
  3. New York City, New York
  4. Honolulu, Hawaii
  5. Las Vegas, Nevada
  1. Punta Cana, Dominican Republic
  2. Cancun, Mexico
  3. San Francisco, California
  4. Kahului, Maui, Hawaii
  5. Fort Lauderdale, Florida

Cruise ships return to key Caribbean ports

Cruise ships will return to three of the most popular Caribbean cruise ports affected by Hurricanes Irma and Maria just in time for the holidays. Sailings to St. Thomas and San Juan are resuming this month, while St. Maarten is scheduled to re-open in December. According to the Cruise Lines International Association, 87 percent of the nearly 100 cruise ports in the Caribbean are open, including the one in Key West.

Top 5 busiest airports for car rentals

According to Hertz, the busiest airport pick-up locations for travelers planning to rent a car this Thanksgiving are expected to be Orlando (MCO), Los Angeles (LAX), Miami (MIA), Las Vegas (LAS) and Fort Lauderdale (FLL). The busiest day for rental pick-ups will likely be Wednesday, Nov. 22, with an average rental length of nearly five full days.

330,000 motorists will have car trouble

AAA expects to rescue more than 330,000 motorists this Thanksgiving weekend due to lockouts, flat tires and battery-related issues. AAA recommends motorists have their vehicles inspected by a trusted repair shop, like one of the 7,000 AAA Approved Auto Repair facilities across North America. Members can download the AAA Mobile app, visit AAA.com or call 1-800-AAA-HELP to request roadside assistance.

Download the AAA mobile app before a Thanksgiving getaway

Before setting out for the long Thanksgiving weekend, download the free AAA Mobile app for iPhone, iPad and Android. Travelers can use the app to map a route, find the lowest gas prices, access exclusive member discounts, make travel arrangements, request AAA roadside assistance, find AAA Approved Auto Repair facilities and more. Learn more at AAA.com/mobile.

With the AAA Mobile app, travelers can also find nearly 59,000 AAA Diamond Rated hotels and restaurants. AAA’s rating system uses full-time, professionally trained evaluators to inspect each property on an annual basis. Every AAA Inspected & Approved establishment offers the assurance of acceptable cleanliness, comfort and hospitality, and a rating of one to five diamonds helps travelers find the right match for amenities and services.

About the AAA travel forecast

AAA’s projections are based on economic forecasting and research by IHS Markit. The London-based business information provider partnered with AAA in 2009 to jointly analyze travel trends during major holidays. AAA has been reporting on holiday travel trends for more than two decades.

 

About The Auto Club Group

The Auto Club Group (ACG) is the second largest AAA club in North America. ACG and its affiliates provide membership, insurance, financial services and travel offerings to over 9.4 million members across eleven states and two U.S. territories including Florida, Georgia, Iowa, Michigan, Nebraska, North Dakota, Tennessee, Wisconsin, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands; most of Illinois and Minnesota; and a portion of Indiana. ACG belongs to the national AAA federation with more than 57.7 million members in the United States and Canada; the organization’s mission includes protecting and advancing freedom of mobility and improving traffic safety. Motorists can map a route, identify gas prices, find discounts, book a hotel, and access AAA roadside assistance with the AAA Mobile app for iPhone, iPad and Android. AAA clubs can be visited on the Internet at AAA.com.

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