FLORHAM PARK—The number of Americans traveling during the Thanksgiving holiday weekend will drop slightly compared to last year, reports AAA. An estimated 41 million Americans are expected to celebrate the Thanksgiving holiday 50 miles or more away from home, a decrease of 600,000 travelers (1.4 percent) from last year’s total of 41.6 million. This is the first decline in Thanksgiving holiday travel since 2002 and is the fourth consecutive holiday in 2008 where a year-to-year decrease was forecast. According to AAA, nearly one million people will originate their travels in New Jersey.
“While gas prices have dropped considerably, providing motorists much-need relief at the pump, the overall state of the economy continues to present real challenges for some families looking to travel this Thanksgiving,” says Rick Zeckendorf, vice president of travel services for the AAA New Jersey Automobile Club. “It’s important to note, however, that even in the face of these tough economic times, the desire to spend time with family and friends provides a strong incentive and many people are still planning to travel.”
AAA expects that more than 33.2 million people (81 percent of all holiday travelers) will travel by automobile, a 1.2 percent decrease from the 33.6 million people who drove to their holiday destinations a year ago. More than 756,000 of these holiday drivers (about 2 percent of all holiday travelers) will start their trip in New Jersey.
Holiday auto travelers will find gas prices nationwide currently averaging $2.02 for a gallon of self-serve regular gasoline – down over $1 from this time last year. In New Jersey, motorists are paying $1.95 for a gallon of regular gasoline, a decrease of $0.81 from a month ago and $0.97 lower than one year ago.
Locally, residents in Essex, Morris and Union Counties are paying $2 for a gallon of regular gasoline, $0.82 less than one month ago and $0.96 less than a year ago.
The AAA Fuel Gauge Report Web site (www.aaafuelgaugereport.com) lists average daily prices for the nation, all 50 states and more than 250 localities for all grades of gasoline.
Although most travelers will be driving to their destinations, an estimated 4.5 million will fly to see their friends and loved ones this year, representing a 7.2 decrease from this same period last year. Approximately 140,000 of these travelers will initiate their travel from an area airport. Air passengers will see airfares nearly eight percent higher than last year, along with increases in incidental fees. AAA advises travelers to check with travel counselors or individual airlines about any additional charges for their trip. A projected 3.26 million Americans plan to travel by train, bus or other mode of transportation, with 95,000 departing from New Jersey.
Travelers can also expect higher car rental prices. On average, rental rates are four percent higher than a year ago for the same period. In the tri-state area rentals have increased approximately 64 percent from an average price of $56 in 2007 to $92 this year.
Thanksgiving travelers across the country, however, will find bargains when looking to book their hotel stay this year. Rates for AAA Three Diamond hotels are down an average of 10 percent compared to last year.
Research for Thanksgiving weekend holiday travel projections are derived from the Travel Industry Association’s (TIA) Holiday Travel Forecast Model. The model was developed based on consumer travel intentions and TIA’s quarterly travel forecast data. The travel intentions data are collected through an online survey of over 2,000 adults nationwide, supplemented by an additional 6,500 Americans surveyed from the top 10 states of origin in the United States. Historical travel volume and other economic data such as GDP, disposable income, employment and travel costs (including fuel prices) are also incorporated into the model. Analysis of the data and the forecasts are produced by the Travel Industry Association, which conducts special research for AAA.
As North America’s largest motoring and leisure travel organization, AAA provides more than 51 million members with travel, insurance, financial and automotive-related services. Since its founding in 1902, the not-for-profit, fully tax-paying AAA has been a leader and advocate for the safety and security of all travelers. AAA clubs can be visited on the Internet at www.AAA.com.
Locally, the AAA New Jersey Automobile Club offers automotive, travel, insurance, financial and educational services to residents of Essex, Morris and Union counties.