DEARBORN (WWJ) – An estimated 1.34 million Michigan residents will travel 50 miles or more from home during the 2012 Thanksgiving holiday period, up seven percent from last year, says AAA Michigan.
They join 43.6 million Americans who will travel nationally, up 0.7 percent, according to AAA’s survey. The holiday period is defined as Wednesday, Nov. 21 to Sunday, Nov. 25.
“We continue to see an uptick in the number of Michigan residents who travel,” AAA Michigan President Steve Wagner said in a statement. “Our residents will be taking to the roads and skies, and they are savvy travelers. They continue to look for ways to economize their travel budgets so they can be with family and friends.”
Vehicle travel remains the most popular form of Thanksgiving transportation. Eighty-nine percent of Michigan travelers will go by vehicle, down slightly from last year’s ninety percent. Nationally, 90 percent of holiday travelers will go by vehicle, an increase of 0.6 percent. Michigan travelers can expect to pay about $3.56 per gallon for gas, 9.7 cents higher than last year.
In Michigan, nearly eight percent of travelers will go by air, on par with last year, while the remaining nearly three percent will go by train or bus.
The Thanksgiving holiday is unique falling on a Thursday every year, with many off from work the Friday after. The Wednesday before the holiday is expected to be the busiest travel day. The majority of travelers surveyed plan to leave that Wednesday, with 36 percent planning to return the following Sunday. Another 25 percent expect to return on Monday, Nov. 26.
While many travelers stay with family or friends during the holiday, those needing hotel rooms will find rates for lodgings down one percent from a year ago, with travelers spending an average $143 per night, compared to $145 last year.
Based on a survey of traveler intentions, the average distance traveled by Americans this holiday will be 588 miles, down 16.7 percent. Median spending is expected to be $498, down 10 percent from last year.
Thanksgiving holiday travel is typically less expensive than other holiday travel because of the emphasis on the Thanksgiving meal and family gatherings.
According to AAA’s Leisure Travel Index, Thanksgiving airfares are expected to be lower than last year, with the average lowest round-trip rate of $188 for the top 40 U.S. air routes, an 11 percent drop from last year. Weekend daily car rental rates will average $47, compared to $37 last year.
Roads and airports will be busy — AAA advises travelers to allow extra time to get to their destination. The holiday coincides with Michigan’s firearm deer hunting season, with an estimated 700,000 hunters expected to be on the roads Nov. 15 through Nov. 30.
During last year’s holiday period, there were seven fatal crashes resulting in seven fatalities on Michigan roads. Two of those were not wearing seat belts. None of the crashes involved alcohol.
Holiday motorists should also make sure their vehicles are winter ready and carry a winter emergency kit — including snow brush, shovel, ice scraper, flashlight, first aid kit and gloves, hats and blankets. Motorists should also keep their gas tank near full to prevent fuel line freeze-up during winter weather.
AAA’s projections are based on economic forecasting and research by IHS Global Insight.