Thanksgiving Day Travel

trafficfallAAA projects 43.4 million Americans will journey 50 miles or more from home during the Thanksgiving holiday weekend, a decrease of 1.5 percent from the 44 million people who traveled last year. This decrease falls just shy of last Thanksgiving’s four-year peak since the recession-driven declines in 2008-2009 when Thanksgiving travel fell by 25 percent.

The Thanksgiving holiday travel period is defined as Wednesday, Nov. 27 to Sunday, Dec. 1.

While the economy continues to improve, the sluggish pace of the recovery is creating uncertainty in the minds of some consumers and therefore AAA is projecting a slight decline in the number of Thanksgiving travelers this year. For those traveling by automobile the good news is motorists will receive a holiday bonus in the form of lower gas prices which are at their lowest levels for the holiday since 2010.

Local gas prices and busiest travel day
In Washington, the average price of regular gasoline is $3.31 per gallon, 20 cents less than this time last year. In Idaho, you will pay $3.27 per gallon on average, 35 cents less than compared to a year ago. The national average is currently $3.22 per gallon, down 21 cents from a year ago.

AAA asked intended travelers which days they would depart for and return from Thanksgiving travel. Among those surveyed, the highest volumes of travelers plan to leave for their trip the Wednesday before the holiday (37 percent) and return the following Sunday (33 percent) with another 24 percent expecting to return on Monday, Dec 2, or later.

Automobile travel remains dominant mode of transportation, air travel decreases
Approximately 90 percent of travelers or 38.9 million people plan to travel by automobile this Thanksgiving. This is a 1.6 percent decrease compared to the 39.5 million people who traveled by auto last year.  Air travel is expected to decrease 3.7 percent as 3.14 million holiday travelers will take to the skies. Approximately 1.4 million travelers will choose other modes of transportation, including rail, bus and cruise ship. The average distance traveled by Americans during the Thanksgiving holiday weekend is expected to be 601 miles, which is an increase of 2.2 percent from last year when travelers planned to log 588 miles.  

Air and hotel rates flat, car rental rates increase six percent
Those traveling by air will find airfares comparable to last year.  For the holiday weekend, the average lowest round-trip rate is $187 for the top 40 U.S. air routes compared to $188 last year. Thanksgiving holiday hotel rates for AAA Three Diamond lodgings are expected to average $142 per night compared to $143 last year. Travelers planning to stay at AAA Two Diamond hotels can expect to pay an average cost of $105 per night, compared to $104 in 2012.  Weekend daily car rental rates will average $50, compared to $47 last year.

Where are Washingtonians traveling to this holiday weekend?
While many people visit friends and family during the Thanksgiving holiday, many also take this opportunity to fit in a road trip. According to AAA Washington’s auto travel counselors, the top five most popular Northwest (Washington, Oregon, Idaho, Montana and British Columbia) destinations for Washington and northern Idaho members traveling during the upcoming holiday weekend include:

Travelers originating in Western Washington:
1) Portland
2) Oregon Coast (including Cannon Beach, Lincoln City)
3) Victoria
4) Leavenworth
5) Vancouver, BC

Travelers originating in Eastern Washington and North Idaho:
1) Oregon Coast
2) Washington Coast
3) Leavenworth
4) Seattle
5) Portland

Road trip ideas for the Thanksgiving holiday:

If weather cooperates, Thanksgiving is typically the start of the winter ski season and devotees of the sport can to choose from a wide range of mountain resorts.
•    Whistler, BC
•    Mount Bachelor (near Bend, OR)
•    Crystal Mountain (near Mt. Rainier)
•    Schweitzer (near Sandpoint, ID)
•    Mount Hood, OR

Northwesterners love the beach and Thanksgiving is a perfect time to visit the coast. Oregon exerts the biggest draw with destinations like:
•    Seaside - stroll the nearly two-mile promenade
•    Cannon Beach - the “Carmel” of the Northwest
•    Lincoln City - great beach, lots of lodging choices and Black Friday shopping at Tanger Outlet
•    Newport has it all: excellent beaches, historic districts, Oregon Coast Aquarium, Hatfield Marine Science Center

The Olympic Peninsula:
•    Two national park hotels are open through the winter:  Lake Quinault Lodge and Kalaloch Lodge
•    Take a stroll through the Hoh Rainforest near Forks
•    Hike out to Cape Alava from Ozette (the cape is the westernmost point in the Lower 48)

Attention holiday shoppers:  Oregon has no sales tax, making it a popular destination for Black Friday shoppers…
•    On the Oregon coast you’ll find off-price shopping malls in Seaside and Lincoln City
•    Columbia Gorge Premium Outlets in Troutdale
•    Woodburn Company Stores in Woodburn, the Northwest’s largest outlet mall   

Washington too has several outlet malls.
•    Seattle Premium Outlets in Marysville.  
•    Outlet Shoppes at Burlington
•    Centralia Outlets
•    North Bend Premium Outlets

November 27, 2013/AAA Washington News Release