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Thanksgiving Travel Forecast 2011 Points Upward

AAA's Forecast 2011 Predicts 14.7 Percent Increase in Buses, Trains

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AAA: Chart With Price of Gas, Thanksgiving 2011

AAA: Price of Gas, Thanksgiving 2011

© AAA
Updated November 19, 2011
We're tired of missing vacation time with family! That's basically what AAA says is creating a 4% increase in holiday travel for Thanksgiving 2011 over 2010. About 42.5 million Americans will be traveling over Thanksgiving in 2011, and 38.2 million, or 90 percent of holiday travelers, will be driving, according to AAA's annual Thanksgiving travel forecast. That's a 4% increase in driving traffic over last year, which was already up partly because of traveler outrage with new TSA airport security measures (like scanners and patdowns), and a 14.7% increase in bus and train travel.

"Driving AAA’s projected increase in the number of Thanksgiving travelers is pent-up demand from Americans who may have foregone holiday travel the last three years," said Bill Sutherland, vice president, AAA Travel Services. The forecast surmises that we've been staying put for Thanksgiving since 2008 because of the recession; 2010's forecast assumed we were avoiding the airport.

An interesting tidbit in the forecast: "other" modes of travel (like the bus and train) is increasing by 14.7 over 2010; AAA says, "Travel via these modes has declined significantly since 2008 and remains well below historical averages, so there is stronger pent-up demand from consumers that travel using these modes. In addition, economic conditions are dictating that those who otherwise might travel by air or automobile are traveling by alternative modes of travel." And not only are the bus and Amtrak cheaper (you can get student travel discounts on both), but they're easier; packing for airport security is a drag.

Conclusions: money is tight. Airports and TSA security stink. Apparently, we say, "Enough economic fear!" We're going anyway. Good for us.

Travel Numbers Continues to Improve

2010's improved economic conditions contributed to an 11 percent increase in Thanksgiving travel over 2009 according to AAA's annualGlobal Insight survey, which forecasts that 42.2 million travelers will be on the roads, airways and rails this Thanksgiving weekend. "The forecasted double-digit increase in Thanksgiving holiday travel would signify an important upturn in travel volume for the holiday after a year of negligible growth in 2009 (0.2 percent) and two years after a historic 25.2 percent decline in travel in 2008," said AAA last year. Not us, though: AAA said the 18-34 year old travelers category has increased from 28.1 percent in 2009 to 30.5 percent in 2010.

Airports, Airport Security and Holiday Travel

The TSA, the government agency which rules levels of airport security hassle, moved that hassle factor to defcon-3 with the introduction in 2010 of an invasive new patdown procedure applying to passengers who don't want the TSA to see them naked via a full body scanner (and even for some of those who do). Plenty o' people opted out of air travel altogether last Thanksgiving, and that trend holds true in 2011; airline ticket prices are higher at Thanksgiving 2011, too.

All of this means that the way we travel over holiday weekends will keep on altering.

Means of Thanksgiving Travel Keep Changing

Thanksgiving car travel is continuing to go up, while air travel has been on an overall decline for several years; while AAA's survey again attributes some of that to "...ongoing economic difficulties," as it did in 2010, it noted in 2009 that "...the air travel experience itself has undergone a substantial change." Has it ever. Clearly, we'd rather drive or take the train any day; these substantial increases in travel methods other than flying (16 percent increase in drivers over the last two years, 14.7 percent increase in bus and train travelers this year) show that we are going to get out and about, even if if it's not as quick as hopping a plane.

Thanksgiving Travel Tools

November November 29-December 2 will be the cheapest days to fly, but air travel's not the only way to fly. Learn more:

Comment: How Do You Feel About the TSA's New Security Measures?

Got an opinion on the TSA's backscatter full body scanners, or the alternative and very intimate patdown? Give it, or read others' comments:

Related Reading: Read Survey Results Summary | How AAA Works | Christmas Travel Planning | Finding Student Airfares | Student Airfare Deals This Week | How to Get Student Travel Discounts

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