Americans Amp Up Thanksgiving Travel

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More Americans will be traveling to see their families over the Thanksgiving holiday this year, according to an annual travel forecast by AAA.

Approximately 42.2 million travelers plan on taking trips at least 50 miles from home this year, an 11.4% increase from 2009 when 37.9 million Americans headed out for the holidays.

AAA’s projections are based on research conducted by IHS Global Insight about the 2010 Thanksgiving holiday travel period, defined as Wednesday, Nov. 24 to Sunday, Nov. 28.

According to AAA, the increase in holiday travel appears to be the result of modestly improved economic conditions from 2009. The forecast cites an increase in gross domestic product, real disposable personal income and household net worth combined with a decrease in consumer debt.

“While Americans remain cautious with household budgets and discretionary spending amidst high levels of unemployment, many are in a better financial position this Thanksgiving than a year ago,” said AAA President and CEO Robert L. Darbelnet. “This improvement, along with a strong desire to spend time with friends and family, is expected to propel a significant increase in Thanksgiving travel.”

While the overwhelming majority of travelers will use a car to reach their friends and family, research did show a boost in holiday fliers this year: 1.62 million passengers are expected to fly during the holiday weekend. Last year,  1.57 million people travelled by plane.  

The 3.5% increase is significant when you consider that the cost of airfare during the holidays is more expensive this year. In October, Travelocity released data that showed the average domestic airfare during the Thanksgiving holiday had gone up 10% from 2009.

This propensity to spend means that those hoping to score last-minute flight deals may find themselves stuck at home.

"I wouldn't say the word 'screwed' unless I was with my poker buddies, but this is not the year to procrastinate," Rick Seaney, co-founder and chief executive of travel site FareCompare told our sister site TheStreet. "Typically what would happen historically is that airlines, inside of 14 days before Thanksgiving, will throw in what they call 'turkey fares' where they'll treat everyone like a business traveler when the flights get full and bump ticket prices up to $600 to $800 round-trip."

Seaney says that if you are going to score cheap travel deals over the holiday you need to remain flexible. This includes flying during the off-peak days or booking a different room category than you typically would when arranging travel accommodations.

You can check out MainStreet article for more tips on how to score last-minute travel deals.

—For the best rates on loans, bank accounts and credit cards, enter your ZIP code at BankingMyWay.com.

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