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U.S. Thanksgiving Travel to Rise 0.7% on More Car Travel

U.S. travel during the Thanksgiving holiday weekend will rise a fourth straight year, gaining 0.7 percent from 2011, as trips by automobile rise even as airplane trips decline, AAA said today.

About 43.6 million people will journey 50 miles or more from home this year, up from 43.3 million last year, the nation’s biggest motoring organization said in a statement. The increase would be the smallest since 2009, AAA said.

“Thanksgiving travel hit a decade low in 2008 when only 37.8 million Americans traveled,” Robert Darbelnet, chief executive officer at AAA, said in the statement. “Since that year, we have seen a steady increase in the number of travelers taking to the roads and skies for the holiday.”

Automobile transportation will account for 39.1 million of the holiday travelers, an increase of 0.6 percent from last year. The number of air passengers will decline 1.9 percent to 3.14 million, according to the report.

Americans will spend less and travel fewer miles during the 2012 holiday period, which runs from Nov. 21 to Nov. 25 with Thanksgiving falling on Nov. 22. Trip plans by residents in the Central Atlantic states may be curtailed because of Hurricane Sandy’s Oct. 29 landfall, AAA said.

“While we do not yet know the full impact that Hurricane Sandy will have on travel from the mid-Atlantic region, we do know that the impact for many Americans in that region is substantial,” Darbelnet said.

Travel Spending

Americans will spend approximately $498 per household to travel during the holiday period, compared with $554 last year. The average distance journeyed will decline to 588 miles from 706 miles in 2011, because of the decrease in air travelers and Americans’ desire to be more frugal, AAA said.

The average price of a gallon of self-serve gasoline will be between $3.25 and $3.40 a gallon over the holiday period, according to AAA. Last year’s average of $3.32 was the highest on record.

AAA’s projections are based on research by IHS Global Insight of Englewood, Colorado.

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