AAA: Thanksgiving Travel to Increase Slightly, AAA Projects

Michael Bie

(608) 828-2492

Pam Moen

(608) 828-2487

This year’s Thanksgiving travelers can plan on highways and airports being busy as ever, according to AAA’s holiday travel forecast.

AAA estimates that 37.29 million Americans will travel 50 miles or more from home this holiday, a 0.8 percent increase from last year’s 37 million travelers.

“Growth in Thanksgiving travel is slightly less robust in 2005, although folks who are traveling really won’t be able to tell the difference because highways and airports will be at least as busy as last year,” said AAA Wisconsin Regional President Steve Bernth.

Approximately 30.84 million travelers (83 percent of all holiday travelers) expect to go by motor vehicle, a 0.7 percent increase from the 30.61 million who drove a year ago.

In the Great Lakes region, which includes Wisconsin, 6.06 million people are projected to drive 50 miles or more away from home for the holiday, a 0.3 percent decrease.

Peak travel times in the state will be noon to 8 p.m. on Wednesday, Nov. 23, and noon to 8 p.m. on Sunday, Nov. 27.

Another 4.64 million (12 percent of holiday travelers) plan to travel by airplane, up 1.3 percent from the 4.59 million that flew last Thanksgiving holiday. A projected 1.81 million travelers (5 percent) will go by train, bus, or other mode of transportation, up slightly from 1.80 million a year ago.

In the Great Lakes region, 0.62 million people are projected to travel by airplane, a 5.4 percent increase from last year.

“AAA’s Leisure Travel Index shows air fares down overall, but many travelers were surprised to find discount fares were snapped up earlier than expected this holiday,” Bernth said. “Whereas last year ‘early bookers’ might have bought their Thanksgiving plane tickets in September, this year we saw many people booking Thanksgiving flights during the summer.”

For motorists, Wisconsin gas prices are down considerably from their September records, but still higher than a year ago.

Wisconsin gas prices average $2.308 for a gallon of self-serve regular gasoline, according to the Nov. 16 AAA Daily Fuel Gauge Report, That average is 39.5 cents lower than a month ago at this time but 28.8 cents higher than a year ago.

The Wisconsin per-gallon price breakdown from AAA’s Fuel Gauge survey is:

Unleaded regular: $2.308

Mid-grade: $2.396
Unleaded premium: $2.507

Other average prices for gas in the region are: Illinois, $2.303; Iowa, 2.118; Minnesota, 2.162; and Michigan, 2.209.

In addition to higher prices at the pump, auto travelers will face higher prices for hotels and car rentals. Holiday hotel rates are up 1.5 percent for AAA-rated Three Diamond hotels, as strong demand allows hoteliers to increase rates that they raised last Thanksgiving, too. Expect higher rates for rental cars, as well, with an average increase of 3.2 percent. The one exception is airfares, where expanded service by low cost carriers on some routes has pushed fares down 4.8 percent on average from last year.

Research for Thanksgiving holiday travel is based on a national telephone survey by the Travel Industry Association of America, which conducts special research for AAA.

AAA Wisconsin, which serves 600,000 members, offers automotive, travel, insurance and financial services. It is part of The Auto Club Group (ACG), the largest affiliation of AAA clubs in the Midwest, with 4.1 million members in eight states. ACG clubs belong to the national AAA federation, a not-for-profit organization, with more than 48 million members in the United States and Canada.