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AAA predicts uptick in holiday travel


Travelers make their way to flights at Reagan National Airport during the Thanksgiving holidays in 2011. (Win McNamee/GETTY IMAGES)

Apparently, it’s no secret that Americans plan to travel on the cheap this Thanksgiving.

Airfares are down, gas prices are lower, hotel rooms are a smidgen cheaper and money is tight all around, according to the annual Thanksgiving travel survey produced by AAA.

But people, 43.6 million of them, plan to move about the country, which is slightly more than last Thanksgiving and a multitude more than at the peak of the Great Recession.

“Thanksgiving travel hit a decade low in 2008 when only 37.8 million Americans traveled,” AAA President Robert Darbelnet said in a statement. “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.”

He said the median outlay for travel over the four-day weekend — $498 — is a 10 percent decrease from last year.

Nine out of 10 people who told AAA they plan to travel more than 50 miles said they would travel by car, accounting for the small increase in overall travel. Air travel is forecast to decline by a fraction.

Anticipating that flying will be a rare experience for some of the more than 3 million who will board planes, the Transportation Security Administration issued its usual holiday reminders about limits on carry-on liquids and cautions about wrapped packages, snow globes and toting cakes and pies.

AAA said that airfares on the 40 most popular air routes have dropped by 11 percent since last Thanksgiving.

The automobile club said the average price of gasoline nationwide was expected to be between $3.25 and $3.40. That’s a decline of almost 40 cents a gallon since early October.

Hotel rooms were just a couple of dollars cheaper than a year ago, AAA said.

Wednesday and Sunday were expected to be the heaviest travel days, although 25 percent of people said they won’t head home until Monday.

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