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    AAA Expects High Holiday Traffic

    High cost of travel will not keep Americans from venturing far this Thanksgiving.

    WASHINGTON -- Americans will be unfazed by higher prices for hotels, rental cars and airfares, the AAA reported this week. It estimated that 38.3 million people will travel 50 miles or more this Thanksgiving, a 2.7 percent increase from last year's 37.3 million travelers.

    "Airports and highways will be busier than ever," said AAA CEO and president Robert L. Darbelnet. "Prices for hotel rooms, rental cars and airfare have increased, but that will not keep people from traveling."

    Convenience stores can reap benefits from the increase, as 31.7 million people, or 82.8 percent of all travelers, plan to travel by car this year, a 2.6 percent increase from last year, the report stated. Those that do travel by car will find gas prices averaging $2.23 per gallon, nine cents lower than last year's holiday.

    "Americans will take advantage of the fact that gas prices have been falling for the past several months," said Darbelnet. "They might have foregone the summer family vacations because of high gas prices, but extended family get-togethers and lower gas prices will encourage Americans to get back on the road."

    Even though low prices can encourage travelers, they will pay higher airfare, rates for hotels and car rentals, according to AAA's Leisure Travel Index. Holiday hotel rates have increased 16 percent for AAA-rated Three Diamond Hotels. Rental cars' fares have increased 21 percent as well, the report stated.

    Areas expecting the most holiday travel are the Southeast, with 9.1 million, followed by the West, with 7.2 million travelers, and the Midwest, at 6.7 million people traveling. The Great Lakes will see 6.2 million travelers and the Northeast will have an estimated 2.4 million travelers.

    Final destinations for travelers vary greatly, with the largest percentage, 45.3 percent, arriving at small towns and rural areas. Cities will be visited by an estimated 35 percent of travelers. The remaining areas -- Mountains, oceans/beaches, lakes, state/national parks and theme/amusement parks -- all saw less than 10 percent each in the study.

    AAA conducted the survey through the Travel Industry Association of America, which polled 1,500 adults on their Thanksgiving holiday travel plans.

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