Thanksgiving will continue 2010 holiday travel rebound
The number of people taking to the roads and skies this Thanksgiving holiday weekend will increase by more than 11 percent from 2009 due to an improving economy and the pull of loved ones, according to AAA projections.
That is the second-largest increase for any holiday weekend yet this year in the American Automobile Assocation’s holiday trends forecast.
“While Americans remain cautious with household budgets and discretionary spending amidst high levels of unemployment, many are in a better financial position this Thanksgiving than a year ago,” said AAA Regional President Brad Roeber.
In this year’s AAA holiday weekend survey, 82 percent of travelers reported the main purpose of their trip would be to visit with family or friends. The average traveler will venture 812 miles from home with median spending of $495.
If going by car, a good chunk of that $495 will be consumed by gasoline purchases, with prices at the pump reaching one-year highs last week and poised to go even higher for the Thanksgiving holiday weekend running Wednesday through Sunday.
The national average price for a gallon of regular was $2.89 near the end of last week, the highest price reached in AAA’s Daily Fuel Gauge Report in the past year.
Gasoline prices have been rising in tandem with the price of crude oil, which has gone up 15 percent since the Labor Day holiday.
The increase in holiday weekend travel this Thanksgiving compares to negligible 0.2 percent growth last year and a 25.2 percent decline in 2008, according to AAA. Still, this year’s 42.2 million travelers remains far below the pre-recession peak of 58.6 million Thanksgiving weekend travelers in 2005.
In addition to high gas prices, motorists still will have to contend with traffic restrictions and a few closures due to major construction projects, although construction activity itself on Indiana interstates and state roads will be suspended.
The mammoth road project on Interstate 80/94 will be among those suspended for the holiday, but westbound motorists on the interstate still will have to shift lanes between Ripley Street and Broadway. The Central Avenue ramp to the westbound Borman Expressway remains closed as does the ramp from southbound Interstate 65 to the westbound Borman.
In Porter County, bridge projects on U.S. 12 near Ind. 249 and on Ind. 49 where it passes over U.S. 20 have led to lane restrictions.
In Illinois, there still are a number of lane closures in the area near where Interstate 290 hooks up with Interstate 355, according to Illinois Department of Transportation spokesman Josh Kauffman.
Some significant ramp closures that may affect motorists include the ramp from the northbound Dan Ryan (I-90/94) to eastbound Congress Parkway and on the northbound and southbound Edens Expressway (I-94) to Willow Road.
Motorists should make sure they observe all speed limits and wear seat belts, as Indiana State Police plan to continue their Operation Pull Over Blitz No. 65 through Sunday.
Troopers will watch for impaired drivers, motorists who speed, follow too closely, make unsafe lane changes, drive aggressively and fail to buckle up or properly restrain their children, according to Lt. Lou Brown, Lowell District commander.
In Illinois, IDOT is teaming up with state police and 150 local law enforcement agencies to operate nearly 900 safety belt enforcement zones. More than half of them will be conducted at night, when safety belt usage is typically the lowest.
Illinois State Police and local agencies also will be teaming up to conduct roadside safety checks and impaired driver saturation patrols.
Businesses that serve the traveling public are anxiously prepping for the holiday weekend.
Hertz Car Rental at O’Hare International Airport already is experiencing a surge in online reservations and is putting on extra staff and making sure self-serve kiosks are in good working order, according to Hertz agent Rita Weber.
According to AAA, the cost of an average daily car rental in the United States will be about $42 this year, a 4 percent decrease from last year. AAA predicts a 4 percent increase in hotel room prices.
Those traveling by air can expect to pay about 4 percent more for a plane ticket this Thanksgiving as compared to last, with an average lowest round-trip rate of $176 for the top 40 U.S. air routes, according to AAA.
Holiday travel up, and so are gas prices
Gasoline prices reached their highest point of the year last week and are poised to go even higher for the Thanksgiving holiday travel weekend.
Last week: $2.89
One month ago: $2.83
One year ago: $2.63
Last week: $2.90
One month ago:$2.80
One year ago:$2.52
One month ago:$3.03
One year ago:$2.78