Increased gas costs not deterring Thanksgiving travel

Regular unleaded gasoline prices have never reached $3 per gallon on average in November until this year, according to an AAA Colorado press release.

Despite much higher gas prices for this Thanksgiving travel period, AAA Colorado expects a slight increase in Coloradans who will be traveling 50 miles or more from home this Thanksgiving compared to last year.

"Because Coloradans perceive travel as a right, they are finding ways around such challenges as the increased cost of gasoline and are still traveling," said Sandra Barnes, AAA Colorado's Director of Travel. "Overall, our travel agency is as busy as last year when it comes to booking for Thanksgiving travel.

"The only difference is that some travelers are cutting costs by staying at less expensive hotels, eating at less expensive restaurants or cutting out travel expenses they don't absolutely need."

Gas prices in Colorado are up considerably from last year. Coloradans on average are paying 90 cents per gallon more with the average price of regular unleaded in Colorado at $3.11 for a gallon.

A year ago, the average price of regular unleaded was $2.21 per gallon in Colorado.

Motorists using diesel fuel for their travelers are paying the highest prices in recorded history with the average price of diesel at $3.45 per gallon, and 83 cents more than a year ago.

Contrary to popular belief, the unusually high gas prices are not adding a considerable amount of expense to in-state travelers. Motorists will only spend $22.50 more this year on regular unleaded gasoline in a 500-mile roundtrip journey, driving a car that gets 20 miles per gallon. Motorist can calculate the current costs of fuel for their trip with AAA's online fuel cost calculator at www.fuelcostcalculator.com.

Not all travel costs have increased as much as fuel.

According to the AAA Leisure Travel Index:

• The average rate for AAA Three Diamond Rated hotels (moderately priced) in Denver is up 9 percent from $98 per night last year to $107 per night this year.

• Hotel rates are down 3 percent nationally for AAA Three Diamond Rated hotels, from $166 per night last year to $161 dollars this year.

• Car rental rates for an intermediate-size car in Denver have increased 10 percent from $52 per day last year to $57 per day this year.

• Car rental rates for an intermediate-size car nationally are down 12 percent from $49 per day last year to $43 this year.

• Airfare is down on average nationally 7 percent from last year.

• The top five in-state travel destinations booked through AAA Colorado's travel agency for Thanksgiving this year are Denver, Colorado Springs, Fort Collins/Loveland, Grand Junction and Vail/Eagle.

Nationally, AAA estimates that 38.7 million Americans will travel 50 miles or more from home this holiday, a modest 1.5 percent increase from last year's 38.1 million travelers.

Approximately 31.2 million travelers (80 percent of all holiday travelers) expect to go by motor vehicle, a 1.3 percent increase from the 30.8 million who drove in 2006.

AAA expects 4.7 million Americans (12.1 percent of holiday travelers) to travel by airplane, up 2.2 percent from last Thanksgiving.

If you are flying this Thanksgiving, AAA Colorado advises travelers to arrive at the airport especially early, as delays could be much longer than usual since it's one of the busiest travel periods of the year.

AAA Colorado also suggests that parents bring snacks or games to keep their children occupied in case of long airport delays.

Research for Thanksgiving holiday travel is based on a national Web survey of 2,200 adults by the Travel Industry Association, which conducts special research for AAA. The survey was conducted Oct. 22 through Oct. 26.

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