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Millions to hit the road for turkey time

November 19, 2018

La PORTE COUNTY – Maybe they don’t like cooking, or just want that final vacation before the Christmas season kicks into full gear, but an estimated 54.3 million Americans will be hitting the roads for long trips this Thanksgiving weekend.

That’s how many AAA projects will travel 50 miles or more away from home, a 4.8 percent increase over last year. In Indiana, some 1.2 million are expected to head over the river and through the woods, up 4.6 percent from last year.

The federal Transportation Security Administration estimates this could be the “busiest travel season on record.”

“The 2018 holiday weekend will see the highest Thanksgiving travel volume in more than a dozen years – since 2005 – with 2.5 million more people taking to the nation’s roads, skies, rails and waterways compared with last year,” AAA spokeswoman Beth Mosher said.

Gas prices are not expected to be an obstacle.

“Consumers have a lot to be thankful for this holiday season: higher wages, more disposable income and rising levels of household wealth,” said the director of public affairs for AAA Chicago. “This is translating into more travelers kicking off the holiday season with a Thanksgiving getaway, building on a positive year for the travel industry.”

For the 48.5 million Americans planning a road trip, INRIX, a global mobility analytics company, predicts travel times in the most congested cities could be as much as four times longer than normal over the Thanksgiving holiday period from Wednesday through Sunday.

Of those 1.2 million Hoosiers getting away, 1.1 million are expected to be driving, and another about 101,000 flying (a 6.2 percent increase).

Of those Americans traveling for the holiday, the vast majority are expected to be driving, but another 4.27 million will be flying; and 1.48 will be on trains, buses or cruise ships, according to AAA.

Based on historical and recent travel trends, INRIX and AA, predicts drivers will experience the greatest amount of congestion during the early evening commute period, with travel times starting to increase on Monday, Mosher said. In most cases, the best days to travel will be on Thanksgiving Day, Friday or Saturday. Drivers should expect increased travel times on Sunday as most holiday travelers will be making their way home.

Gas prices are not expected to be an obstacle. In Indiana, prices were averaging $2.59 per gallon last week, down significantly from $2.93 a month ago and down slightly from $2.70 at this time last year. The national average for gas is $2.75.

And GasBuddy thinks gas prices will keep falling, and is recommending motorists hold off on filling up after Tuesday’s 7 percent single-day drop in the price of crude oil extended the record streak of 12 days that oil moved lower.

The national average has shed 24 cents per gallon in the last month with some states seeing even bigger monthly declines: Michigan is down 33 cents, while Indiana is down 32 cents on average versus a month ago.

Tuesday’s drop in oil prices should extend the decline in gas prices for several more weeks in nearly all states at a time when millions of Americans are preparing to hit the road, said Patrick DeHaan, head of petroleum analysis at GasBuddy. “Most states could see a decline of 5-15 cents per gallon ahead of Thanksgiving,” with more to come.

“Tuesday’s market plunge was astounding and a dramatic turnaround in market psyche in the last month. A 26 percent drop in the price of oil is absolutely shocking given the environment and concern ahead of the Iran sanctions that the oil market was not supplied with enough oil,” DeHaan said.

“Motorists need not be in a hurry to fill their tanks. Tuesday’s sell-off will extend and accelerate the declines seen at the pump, just in time for Thanksgiving. The best tip I can suggest is to shop around for the lowest prices as some stations will pass on the savings faster than others.”

For people flying, AirHelp, a passenger rights company, believes that O’Hare will be one of the busiest and most likely to have disrupted flight routes, based on 2017 data. The firm also said the Sunday after Thanksgiving will be the worst day to fly into and out of O’Hare, as the airport will be the most crowded.

—From staff reports

Top get-away spots

It’s not all about turkey and trimmings over the Thanksgiving weekend. Many travelers will seek iconic cities, theme parks and other warm-weather destinations. The Top 10 most popular holiday destination stops this year include:

1. Orlando, Florida

2. New York City

3. Anaheim, California

4. Punta Cana, Dominican Republic

5. Las Vegas, Nevada

6. Cancun, Mexico

7. Dallas/Fort Worth

8. Honolulu

9. Washington, D.C.

10. Miami, Florida

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