AAA: Thanksgiving travel to decline for first time since 2002

ATLANTA – The economy is taking its toll on Thanksgiving travel plans, as less Americans plan to hit the road this year, according to AAA.

An estimated 41 million Americans will travel at least 50 miles this Thanksgiving. That’s a 1.4 percent decline compared to last year when 41.6 million peopled traveled at least 50 miles. The decrease represents the first decline in Thanksgiving travel since 2002, AAA said.

“The overall state of the economy continues to present real challenges for some Americans looking to travel this Thanksgiving,” AAA President and CEO Robert L. Darbelnet said in a news release. “However, the desire to spend time with family, combined with significantly lower gasoline prices than earlier this year, will provide a strong impetus for many Americans to travel this holiday season.”

Nationally, gas prices are about $1 less per gallon than a year ago, according to AAA’s Daily Fuel Gauge Report.

While air travel could see a 7.2 percent decline and automobile is expected to experience a 1.2 percent decline, the number of people planning to travel by train may increase by 5.8 percent over last year. Concurrently, AAA is estimating that air fares are 8 percent higher than last year – in addition to new fees for checked bags – while car rental prices increased by 4 percent.

“While it’s clear that the slowing economy has caused many of us to curb spending, this holiday that celebrates family traditions might see actual travel numbers that are better than expected, especially with gasoline prices continuing to fall,” Kevin Bakewell, senior vice president of AAA Auto Club South, said in a news release. “The lower priced gasoline may persuade some who weren’t inclined to travel to change their minds.”

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