Holiday travel expected to rise due to economy, low gas prices

Published 12:00 am Sunday, November 22, 2015

If you’re taking to the road to visit friends and family over the Thanksgiving holiday, you will not be alone.

Thanks to a stronger economy and lower gas prices, Thanksgiving travelers can expect more congested highways this year.

During the long holiday weekend, 46.9 million Americans are expected to go 50 miles or more from home, the highest number since 2007, according to travel agency and car lobbying group AAA. That would be a 0.6 percent increase over last year and the seventh straight year of growth.

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While promising for the travel industry, the figure is still 7.3 percent short of the 50.6 million high point reached in 2007, just before the recession.

Like on every other holiday, the overwhelming majority of travelers — almost 90 percent — will be driving. And they will be paying much less at the pump.

AAA says the average retail price for gasoline is now $2.15 per gallon, 74 cents cheaper than the same time last year. The average car is getting 18.5 miles per gallon, which means a family driving 300 miles will save $12 in fuel this holiday.

Drivers in the Vicksburg area will see even lower fuel prices, with the most recent average for regular unleaded coming in at $1.92 per gallon. This time last year, area drivers were facing average fuel prices of $2.64 per gallon.

Drivers nationwide continue to experience significant yearly savings in the price of gas and AAA estimates that consumers are saving nearly $350 million on gasoline every day compared to a year ago. This has helped boost disposable income, enabling many Americans to travel this Thanksgiving.

Airlines for America, the lobbying group for several major airlines, forecasts 25.3 million passengers will fly on U.S. Airlines, up 3 percent from last year. (AAA’s forecast shows fewer numbers of fliers because it looks at a five-day period while the airline group looks at the 12 days surrounding Thanksgiving.)

Airfare is basically flat compared to last year, with a mere 0.3 percent or 69-cent average increase, according to the Airlines Reporting Corp., which processes ticket transactions for airlines and travel agencies.