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NATIONAL REPORT -- For the fourth consecutive year, there will be more Thanksgiving holiday travelers hitting the roads this year. According to projections released by AAA, 43.6 million Americans will travel 50 miles or more from home during the Thanksgiving holiday weekend, an increase of 0.7 percent from the 43.03 million people who traveled last year.
The Thanksgiving holiday travel period is defined as Wednesday to Sunday, Nov. 21-25.
"Thanksgiving travel hit a decade low in 2008 when only 37.8 million Americans traveled," said AAA President and CEO Robert Darbelnet. "Since that year, we have seen a steady increase in the number of travelers taking to the roads and skies for the holiday. Americans continue to find ways to economize their budgets so they can gather around the holiday table to carve the turkey."
AAA estimates that 39.1 million travelers, or 90 percent, will make their treks on the road -- an increase of 0.6 percent vs. the 38.9 million people who traveled by automobile last year. Air travel is expected to decrease 1.7 percent, with 3.14 million travelers taking to the skies. Roughly 1.3 million travelers will choose other transportation modes such as rail, bus or cruise ship.
The average distance traveled will decline to 588 miles from 706 miles, in part due to the decrease in the number of air travelers and Americans' desire to economize their budgets, AAA reported, noting that despite mild improvements in unemployment, the housing market and greater consumer optimism, the economy is still struggling to keep its head above water.
AAA's forecast was completed before Superstorm Sandy wreaked havoc on the East Coast. The organization said it doesn't yet know the full impact that the storm will have on travel in the Mid-Atlantic region, but it expects it will be significant.
New York City travelers will have to plan accordingly to fill up their tanks as Mayor Michael Bloomberg announced that the city's odd-even gas-rationing system will remain in effect through this Friday. Motorists can get gas on alternate days based on whether their license plate ends with odd or even numbers. This rationing system went into effect Nov. 9.
With 30 percent of stations still closed, the extension will make sure there aren't the long lines that brought about the gas rationing in the first place, according to the mayor.