ORLANDO, Fla. -- AAA expects Thanksgiving travelers to total 43.6 million, an increase of 0.7% from the 43.3 million who traveled last year, according to the 2012 AAA Thanksgiving Holiday Travel Forecast. It projects that 43.6 million Americans will journey 50 miles or more from home during the Thanksgiving holiday weekend, an increase of 0.7% over the 43.3 million people who traveled last year.
The Thanksgiving holiday travel period is defined as Wednesday, Nov. 21 to Sunday, Nov. 25. Wednesday before the holiday is expected to be busiest travel day.
This increase marks the fourth consecutive year of growing holiday travelers since 2008 when Thanksgiving travel fell by 25%.
AAA estimates the national average price of gasoline will drop to between $3.25 and $3.40 a gallon by the holiday, similar to last year's average of $3.32, which was the most expensive average ever on Thanksgiving. Despite the historically high prices paid by motorists this year, the national average has declined by nearly 40 cents a gallon since early October and should continue to drop through the end of the year. The national average price of gas for Thanksgiving from 2007-2011 is $2.75 a gallon.
"Thanksgiving travel hit a decade low in 2008 when only 37.8 million Americans traveled," said AAA president and CEO Robert Darbelnet. "Since that year we have seen a steady increase in the number of travelers taking to the roads and skies for the holiday. Americans continue to find ways to economize their budgets so they can gather around the holiday table to carve the turkey."
"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," continued Darbelnet
AAA said that 90% of travelers, or 39.1 million, will travel by automobile, an increase of 0.6%, and holiday air travel will decline to 3.14 million travelers from 3.2 million in 2011.
AAA said average distance traveled will decline to 588 miles from 706 miles, due in part to a decrease in the number of air travelers and Americans desire to economize budgets.
Click here to view the full 2012 AAA Thanksgiving Travel Forecast.