AAA: Holiday travel to increase 1.4 percent

Mountain states show 0.3 percent increase

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With Wall Street seemingly growing stronger, some are predicting a rise in holiday activity that could bode well for the national economy.

AAA projects 38.4 million Americans will be traveling 50 miles or more away from home during the Thanksgiving holiday weekend, a 1.4 percent increase from last year. In the mountain states (Colorado, Utah, Wyoming, New Mexico, Arizona, Nevada, Idaho, Mon­tana) there will be 2.5 million travelers, a slight increase of 0.3 percent from Thanksgiving 2008. The Thanksgiving holiday weekend is Wednesday, Nov. 25 through Sunday, Nov. 29.

Last year, Thanksgiving travel dropped a steep 25.2 percent nationwide in the wake of the ongoing housing and financial crisis. This year’s expected increase in travel reflects improved consumer confidence from one year ago, better financial market performance and a growing sense among many consumers that the worst of the global economic crisis is behind us, AAA officials said.

In addition to an improved economy, travel will be aided by lower airfare, lodging and rental car costs. According to AAA’s Leisure Travel Index — a monitor of pricing in 20 popular cities across the US — the lowest average published airfares during the Thanksgiving holiday weekend are expected to decrease 4 percent from last year to an average of $170 per round-trip ticket. Car rental rates are down 3 percent to an average of $44 per day for a mid-size car. Rates for AAA Three Diamond lodgings are expected to be 11 percent less than last year with travelers spending an average of $128 per night. Travelers planning to stay at AAA Two Diamond lodgings will pay 13 percent less than last year, an average of $92 per night.

Mountain states travel

A total of 84 percent of Thanksgiving vacationers in the mountain states, which includes Colorado, are expected to travel by automobile, and only 8 percent say they will go by air. The remaining 8 percent will travel by other means, including trains, buses and RVs, among others. Despite increases in gasoline prices since October, the month Thanksgiving travel plans are typically made, most people will not change their decision to fly versus drive since seat availability becomes more limited and airline ticket prices increase as the holiday approaches.

Thanksgiving holiday travelers in the mountain states should expect to spend $677 per household, according to AAA. Transportation costs will take up about 34 cents of the traveler’s dollar. Food and beverage costs will average 22 cents per dollar and spending for shopping and entertainment will average 30 cents of each dollar spent. With the main purpose of the Thanksgiving holiday being a visit with friends and family, it is not surprising that only 14 cents of the traveler dollar will be spent on accommodations.

AAA projects most mountain states holiday travelers will stay relatively close to home, with 40 percent taking round trips of 250 miles or less. Twenty-five percent will travel between 250 and 700 miles, and 30 percent will travel more than 700 miles. The average round-trip distance of 661 miles is similar to the Memorial Day and July 4, 2009, holiday weekends, but down approximately 100 miles from Labor Day. The majority of travelers during the Thanksgiving holiday will be traveling with members of their household. Only 23 percent of travelers plan to travel with someone outside of their household.

AAA’s projections are based on research conducted by IHS Global Insight. AAA Colorado has more than 525,000 members and is an advocate for safety and security for all travelers. AAA can be visited on the Internet at www.AAA.com.

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