The Woodward News

November 17, 2012

AAA expects heavier travel for holiday

Gary Engel
Woodward News

Woodward, Okla. — AAA Oklahoma thinks more people will travel for Thanksgiving this year, versus 2011, but they won't fly or go as far.

Chuck Mai, vice president-public affairs for AAA Oklahoma, said research indicates that 578,500 Oklahomans, among 43.6 million Americans, will be traveling at least 50 miles from home during the Thanksgiving holiday weekend, which is measured from Nov. 21 to Nov. 25. That's a slight 0.7 percent climb from how many Oklahomans traveled for the holiday last year.

Mai said fewer will be going by air, despite a dip in fares, and they will be traveling a shorter distance and spending less while traveling back and forth.

Round-trip tickets for the top 40 air routes have dropped 11 percent for this year, to $188.

Nevertheless only 48,750 Oklahomans are expected to board a plane this Thanksgiving, which is a 1.2 percent decrease from 2011.

Mai has said that a big reason for the drop is that people just don't enjoy airline travel these days.

The decrease in flying and a desire by consumers to economize is probably a major factor in the lessening of trip mileage from 588 to 706 miles, and that goes along with a  cutback that is expected for spending, to $498 from $554 in 2011, a 10 percent fall.



NATIONAL FUEL PRICE REMAINS SIMILAR TO 2011

Mai said 90 percent of Thanksgiving travelers will be riding in cars or pickups, an increase of 0.6 percent in 2012.

One concern for all those motorists will be gas prices.

Most of us are enjoying the recent tumble in gas prices, but Mai said they are about the same as last year.

"We are expecting the national price to be $3.25 to $3.40," he said. "Between 2007 and 2011, the price was $2.75 a gallon."

However, Oklahoma's average was running at about $3.17 this week, AAA reported.  Mai said the state average could drop even more as below-$3 readings become common within the next couple of weeks across the state.  Lower prices have already been seen in several Oklahoma communities, he said.



RENTAL CARS STILL HEADING UP

But as gas prices drop, AAA said rental car rates are expected to jump this holiday.

"The average rate is pegged at $47 per day this Thanksgiving holiday, compared to $37 last year," Mai said. "We really don't know why the rise."

The only thing the experts can attribute it to is the continually-volatile market for car rentals.

"The rates that are paid can vary by the time of day and even the day of the week when reservations are made," he said.



AAA OFFERS TRAVEL ASSISTANCE

For anyone traveling this holiday season, AAA offers various forms of digital trip-planning assistance.

Non-members may access free AAA mobile applications, for both iPhones and Androids, to get gas prices or map a route. For members, AAA offers apps to receive roadside assistance and access nearby member discounts.

Find out about the mobile apps and AAA Mobile Web at www.AAA.com/mobile.