More people than last year plan to travel for the upcoming Thanksgiving holiday and, as usual, the vast majority will be hitting the road, according to AAA.
An estimated 49 million people nationwide will travel 50 or more miles between Wednesday, Nov. 23 and Sunday, Nov. 27, AAA’s annual travel survey found. That’s a 2 percent increase over last year, and the highest number of travelers since 2007, according to AAA.
One reason more people plan to travel is because the economy has improved, AAA found. Higher wages, more consumer spending, and higher consumer confidence are encouraging people to travel, the survey found.
Also, according to AAA, for many it’s “tradition” to travel to spend the holiday with family and friends.
Most – 89 percent, or 43.5 million people – will travel by motor vehicle, up about 2 percent from last year.
Those who drive will pay higher prices at the pump, compared with last year, according to AAA, which tracks gas prices daily. On Thursday, the average price for regular gas nationwide was $2.15 a gallon, up from $2.05 on Thanksgiving last year.
Still, despite the increase over last year, drivers are expected to pay the second-cheapest Thanksgiving gas prices since 2008, when the national average was $1.85, according to AAA.
In addition to those who drive, another 8 percent (or 3.7 million people) will fly to their destinations, up 1.6 percent from last year. The other 3 percent (or 1.4 million people) will take trains, boats or other modes of transportation, AAA found.
Metro-North Railroad will have a special schedule for the holiday weekend. Starting Wednesday around 1 p.m., the railroad will begin running “early getaway trains.” Also, because of reduced ridership, some evening trains may be cancelled or combined.
On Thanksgiving, Metro-North will run on a modified weekend schedule, and on Friday it will run on a Saturday schedule. Friday also will have some extra inbound morning trains and outbound afternoon trains for those doing Black Friday shopping, according to Metro-North. On Saturday and Sunday there will be regular weekend service, with some additional “Shoppers’ Specials” trains.
AAA found that in New England alone, 2.1 million people expect to travel for Thanksgiving, up 2.4 percent from last year. AAA officials said the region’s travel projections outpace the nation’s, in part because gas prices have been more stable here.
Last Thursday, Connecticut drivers paid an average of $2.31 a gallon for gas, up slightly from $2.26 a gallon on Thanksgiving last year.
Those flying for the holiday likely are paying more than they did last year, with airfares up an estimated 21 percent from a year ago, AAA found. The average cost of a round-trip flight for the 40 most popular domestic destinations is $205 this year.
Rates for AAA Two Diamond-rated hotels are expected to rise 4 percent, to an average of $123 a night, while rates for Three Diamond-rated hotels will be flat and average $155 a night. Based on bookings made at AAA.com, the most popular destinations are Las Vegas, San Francisco, San Diego, Orlando and New York City.