Travel, Gas Prices Up for Thanksgiving Holiday
Thanksgiving will be the first holiday in 2011 with more people traveling than previous holidays in 2010, according to AAA Carolinas.
More vacationers are flying this year than last year, despite fare increases up to 20 percent and crowded planes.
With a total of 1,248,000 North Carolinians expected to travel 50 miles or more from home, an estimated 99,800 (8 percent) are expected to take to the skies, double the 49,000 fliers last year, AAA Carolinas said. Total travel this year, compared with last year, is up 10,000 travelers.
Those choosing to drive will total 1,123,000 (90 percent), down from 1,164,000 last year, when 94 percent of holiday travelers choose to drive. Two percent will use other modes of transportation, such as bus or train, unchanged from last year.
"Thanksgiving is the most traditional family holiday with the 'turkey day' always coming on a Thursday, creating a guaranteed four-day holiday for many," said David E. Parsons, president and CEO of AAA Carolinas. "There is continued pent-up demand to get away, and the higher gasoline prices - up 50 to 60 cents from last year - may have prompted more people to fly instead of drive, along with an average 11 percent drop in rental car fees."
Gas prices have been declining in North Carolina the past week, with the statewide average at $3.351 compared with $3.392 a week ago and $2.804 a year ago. The state average is the same as the national average, with 24 states averaging a lower price and 25 averaging a higher price.
"The good news is we haven't seen a dramatic spike in prices leading up to the holiday," Parsons said. "The economic crisis in Europe and decreased demand has helped keep a damper on pump prices."
Gasoline prices in North Carolinas last month consumed an estimated 7.8 percent to 8.9 percent of household income - close to a record, according to the Oil Price Information Service, which monitors gasoline prices for AAA.
The highest average price is in Boone at $3.402 per gallon of unleaded self-service, and the least expensive average price is in High Point at $3.294.
This is the first time in the last four years passenger air travel has increased as travelers appear to be more accepting of baggage fees for baggage, peak fare surcharges, security checkpoints, a reduction in the number of flights, smaller capacity planes and on-board charges for such things as pillows and blankets.
North Carolinians will travel close to home averaging about 700 miles round trip, and the roughly 40 percent of travelers not staying with friends or relatives will find hotel rates up 6 percent to 7 percent.
There are expected to be no significant construction delays along North Carolina interstates. While all lanes will remain open on interstates, some sections will have lower speed limits due to ongoing construction. State and local police are expected to increase patrols to enforce speeding and other traffic laws.
Most construction projects along interstate, N.C. and U.S. routes were suspended beginning at 4 p.m. on Tuesday and work will resume at 9 a.m. Monday
For real-time travel information at any time, N.C. residents can call 511, visit the N.C. Department of Transportation (NCDOT) website or follow NCDOT on Twitter.
Another option is NCDOT Mobile, a phone-friendly version of the NCDOT website. The site has a number of features to help travelers. For example, users can locate North Carolina rest areas by selecting which road they are traveling on from a list of 17 interstates and U.S. routes.
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