Niagara Gazette — Overall travel will drop slightly this week over last year, according to the latest projections released by the national American Automobile Association.
AAA projects 43.4 million Americans will journey 50 miles or more from home during the Thanksgiving holiday weekend, a decrease of 1.5 percent from the 44 million people who traveled last year.
This decrease falls just shy of last Thanksgiving’s four-year peak since the recession-driven declines in 2008-2009 when Thanksgiving travel fell by 25 percent. The Thanksgiving holiday travel period is defined as Wednesday, Nov. 27 to Sunday, Dec. 1.
"While the economy continues to improve, the sluggish pace of the recovery is creating uncertainty in the minds of some consumers and therefore AAA is projecting a slight decline in the number of Thanksgiving travelers this year," said Tony Spada, President and CEO of AAA Western and Central New York.
The 44 million individuals who traveled in 2012 set a four-year record with 38.9 million of them traveling by automobile. Median spending was also projected to drop from $498 million in 2012 to $465 million in 2013. Holiday air travel will decline 3.7 percent to 3.14 million travelers from 3.26 million in 2012, according to AAA.
"The primary focus of Thanksgiving, more so than any other holiday, is to gather with friends, family and loved ones," Spada said. "Overall, millions of Americans will cast aside fiscal uncertainty to celebrate with the people who matter most in their lives."
The highest volume of travelers, 37 percent, plan to leave for their trip the Wednesday before the holiday, with 33 percent of returning home on Sunday and 24 percent on Monday. Average distance traveled to increase to 601 miles from 588 miles.
AAA also estimates that most drivers will pay the cheapest gas prices for the Thanksgiving holiday since 2010, providing consumers with real savings that could be used for other purposes on the trip. The national average for a gallon of gasoline is currently $3.21 per gallon, down 20 cents from last year though up an average of 5.6 cents over last week.
In New York state, motorists are paying an average of $3.56 per gallon, down 37 cents from 2012. A gallon of gas in Buffalo is averaging $3.56, down 32 cents from last year.