Thanks­giv­ing travel mak­ing come­back from re­ces­sion dip

The Washington Times Daily - - Nation - BY TIM DE­VANEY — AAA spokesman John Townsend

More Amer­i­cans are ex­pected to travel this year to cel­e­brate Thanks­giv­ing, ac­cord­ing to re­ports from mul­ti­ple travel as­so­ci­a­tions.

The num­ber of cars on the high­way, air­line pas­sen­gers, and train and bus pas­sen­gers are all ex­pected to in­crease dur­ing the most heav­ily traf­ficked days on the Tues­day and Wed­nes­day be­fore Thanks­giv­ing and the Sun­day af­ter­ward. Thanks­giv­ing this year falls on Nov. 28.

“For the last few years, travel has been mak­ing a come­back at Thanks­giv­ing, yet it’s still not fully re­cov­ered to what is used to be,” said AAA spokesman John Townsend.

As usual for Thanks­giv­ing, driv­ing will be the most pop­u­lar form of travel this year, ac­cord­ing to AAA, which will re­lease its travel pro­jec­tions later this month. Ac­cord­ing to AAA, the travel as­so­ci­a­tion, trips by car ac­counted for nearly 90 per­cent of all Thanks­giv­ing travel in 2012. More than 39 mil­lion peo­ple drove an av­er­age of 588 miles to their hol­i­day des­ti­na­tions.

Driv­ing has steadily in­creased from a low of 32 mil­lion in 2008 at the height of the re­ces­sion. AAA ex­pects that trend to con­tinue, but does not an­tic­i­pate it will re­turn to the glory days of 2005, when nearly 50 mil­lion peo­ple drove for Thanks­giv­ing.

Most fam­i­lies get less time off for Thanks­giv­ing than Christ­mas, so va­ca­tion­ers tend to stay rel­a­tively close to home. Be­cause they aren’t go­ing all the way across the coun­try, driv­ing is more af­ford­able than fly­ing for most fam­i­lies.

“Thanks­giv­ing is more fam­ily-fo­cused than most of the other hol­i­days,” Mr. Townsend said. “There are peo­ple who are locked into go­ing by car. If you have a fam­ily of four or five, it’s too ex­pen­sive to fly and you’re not go­ing to leave the kids at home, so peo­ple tend to drive.”

Fly­ing is the se­cond-most pop­u­lar form of travel dur­ing Thanks­giv­ing, ac­cord­ing to AAA, but it has de­creased steadily over the last three years.

In 2012, 3.1 mil­lion pas­sen­gers flew, down slightly from the 3.2 mil­lion who flew in 2011, and the 3.3 mil­lion who flew in 2010. How­ever, the air­line in­dus­try’s travel as­so­ci­a­tion projects it will pick back up this year.

The trade as­so­ci­a­tion Air­lines for Amer­ica projects that 25 mil­lion pas­sen­gers will fly for Thanks­giv­ing. That’s an in­crease of 1.5 per­cent from last year, or more than an ad­di­tional 31,000 trav­el­ers per day.

Air­lines for Amer­ica’s pro­jec­tions are larger than AAA’s, be­cause the air­line group mea­sures travel dur­ing a 12-day pe­riod around Thanks­giv­ing from Fri­day, Nov. 22 through Tues­day, Dec. 3, while AAA only mea­sures the days im­me­di­ately sur­round­ing Thanks­giv­ing.

“The good news for cus­tomers is that air travel costs less in real dol­lars today than in 2000, air­lines are de­liv­er­ing strong on-time and bag­gage per­for­mance,” said John Heim­lich, vice pres­i­dent and chief econ­o­mist at Air­lines for Amer­ica.

Mean­while, oth­ers forms of travel such as rail­way and bus may also no­tice a slight uptick in pas­sen­gers. In 2012, 1.2 mil­lion peo­ple took other forms of trans­porta­tion to their Thanks­giv­ing des­ti­na­tions, ac­cord­ing to AAA. Am­trak is adding trains and routes to keep up with the in­creased de­mand.

“When you go to your Thanks­giv­ing des­ti­na­tion by a train or a bus, trans­porta­tion be­comes part of the trip, not a means to an end,” said AAA’s Car­rie Nor­man.

“Thanks­giv­ing is more fam­ily-fo­cused than most of the other hol­i­days. There are peo­ple who are locked into go­ing by car. If you have a fam­ily of four or five, it’s too ex­pen­sive to fly and you’re not go­ing to leave the kids at home, so peo­ple tend to drive.”

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