Nov. 16 (UPI) — Fifty-one million Americans will travel next week over the five-day Thanksgiving weekend — the most in more than a decade, according to AAA’s annual forecast.
The group said Thanksgiving travel has increased for nine consecutive years — and this year will see a 3 percent rise over 2016.
“Thanksgiving kicks off the start of a busy holiday season, and more thankful Americans will travel to spend time with friends and family this year,” Bill Sutherland, a senior vice president for AAA, said in a statement. “A strong economy and labor market are generating rising incomes and higher consumer confidence, fueling a strong year for the travel industry.”
AAA said it expects about 90 percent of travelers will go by vehicle and drive further than 50 miles between next Wednesday and Sunday.
During their trip, Americans will also pay the most for gas since 2014. The average price is $2.56 per gallon, up 40 cents from last year, AAA said. Car rental rates are also at their highest levels in four years, and the average cost of a hotel room is up nearly 15 percent.
“Consumers are in the best mood they’ve been in since the financial crisis, and that usually equates to more gasoline usage,” analyst Phil Flynn said. “Even though you may have to pay a little more to get the turkey to grandma’s house … you’re feeling a little better about the economy.”
AAA said more Americans will also fly this Thanksgiving. A round-trip flight on the top 40 U.S. routes will average $157, the lowest in five years.
The top holiday destination is Orlando, Fla., followed by Anaheim, Calif., New York City, Honolulu and Las Vegas. Punta Cana in the Dominican Republic is the top foreign destination.
Experts said increased travel and lower fares could mean more waiting.
“This year we could see record-level travel delays,” INRIX transportation analyst Bob Pishue said. “Knowing when and where congestion will build can help drivers avoid the stress of sitting in traffic.”
IHS Markit, a London-based business information provider, provided the data for the AAA report.