55.3 Million Will Gobble Up Space on Roads and Planes this Thanksgiving

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296,000 Idahoans to travel for the holiday – three percent more than last year  

BOISE – (November 14, 2019) – Company’s coming, and families should stock up on gravy and pumpkin pie.  According to AAA’s latest projections, about 55.3 million travelers are expected to roam far from home to celebrate Thanksgiving this year.  That’s the most since 2005, and nearly a million and a half more than last year.  Overall, more than 296,000 Idahoans are expected to take a trip – an increase of three percent.

AAA says that high consumer confidence, low unemployment, and gas prices on par with last year will encourage more people to head for the highways and skyways.

“The economy continues to bounce back from the recession years with an 11th straight year of rising travel volume for Thanksgiving,” says Matthew Conde, public affairs director for AAA Idaho.  “IHS Markit also reports that recent job growth has topped expectations.  With more money in their pocket, confident consumers are moving forward with their holiday travel plans.”

The 2019 Thanksgiving holiday period is defined as Wednesday, November 26 to Sunday, December 1.  The busiest times on the road will be Tuesday afternoon, Wednesday morning and Wednesday afternoon, as travelers mix with commuters who are heading to and from work.  In large metro areas, drive times could be two or three times longer than normal due to traffic congestion.

The busiest day at most airports across the country will be Wednesday.  Regional airports, including Seattle, San Francisco, and Los Angeles, will be hectic for any Idahoans who might be making a connecting flight.  The least busy day will be Thanksgiving itself.

“If you decide to travel at the last minute, you might be able to snatch up an inexpensive ticket and still arrive in time for Thanksgiving dinner,” Conde said.  “But if you’re traveling during peak times, expect full planes, busy security lines, and crowded gates.  In recent years, overall seat capacity has not increased as quickly as the demand for flying.”

Idaho’s rural makeup means that an above-average number of people will drive to reach their destination, and a slightly below-average number will fly when compared with national trends.

 

Driving remains the top travel mode

AAA says that 49.3 million – or 89 percent of travelers – will jump behind the wheel to visit their friends and family for a holiday feast.  More than 263,000 Idahoans will be among them.  Another four and a half million people will fly – 4.6 percent more than last year.  Other modes of travel (cruise, bus, train) will be up slightly at 1.4 percent.

 

What about gas prices?

The Idaho average price for regular gasoline recently hit the $3 mark as a result of strong fuel demand, depleted inventories, and reduced refinery production in the Rockies region. Although gas prices have been steadily rising in the Gem State since early October, there is some good news – today’s price is 22 cents more than a month ago, but still six cents less than a year ago.  Colder weather will likely reduce future demand, putting downward pressure on gas prices.

“AAA’s research shows that most Americans won’t make any adjustments to their travel plans until prices reach $3.50 per gallon or higher,” Conde said.  “Current prices aren’t likely to disrupt anyone’s Thanksgiving celebration.”

 

Airfares soar, hotel prices vary, and rental car rates accelerate

According to AAA’s Travel Leisure Index, the average Thanksgiving airfare is seven percent higher than last year, reflecting a continued interest in maximizing time spent at the end destination.  Car rental rates are up by a whopping 20 percent to about $75 per day.  The average price for a room at a AAA Two Diamond-rated hotel increased slightly by one percent to $125 per night, but there are some nice savings to be had at a Three Diamond-rated property, where the average price dipped by five percent to $158 per night.

 

AAA to the rescue

Nationwide, AAA plans to offer roadside assistance to more than 368,000 motorists over the holiday period, with about 650 or so in Idaho.  Flat tires, dead batteries and lockouts are the most common issues.  Drivers who take their vehicle in for a pre-trip inspection at a trusted repair facility, such as a AAA Approved Auto Repair shop, might be able to avoid major headaches later.

 

Holiday travel advice

“Many parts of Idaho are dealing with explosive population growth.  That means more cars on the road, including some being driven by people who may not be familiar with conditions here in the Gem State,” Conde explained.  “To avoid miserable driving conditions, try to leave before the roads are saturated, or wait until the traffic has died down.”

 

Drivers should also pack extra clothing, food, water, a first aid kit, flashlight with extra batteries, jumper cables, flares or reflectors, and some basic tools.