Thanksgiving 2013: fewer travelers on the roads

Thanksgiving is still one of the biggest travel weeks of the year, but fewer people will hit the road this year than last, according to AAA. 

David J. Phillip/AP/File
A sign alerts travelers to expect holiday traffic at George Bush Intercontinental Airport last year in Houston. Thanksgiving travel will be busy as usual, but projections for both road and air travel are down slightly from last year.

If you live in the U.S. and plan to travel this holiday week, you're not alone. According to AAA, over 43 million Americans -- 43.4 million, to be exact -- are expecting to do the same.

That sounds like lots of traffic headaches in the making -- and in fairness, it probably is. But it's worth noting that AAA's 2013 travel projections are down slightly from last year, when 44 million Americans packed their bags.

The biggest drop will be seen in airline travel. AAA expects that 3.14 million Americans will fly the friendly skies this week -- a dip of 3.7 percent from the 3.26 million who flew last year.

Auto travel will be off, too. According to AAA projections, 38.9 million motorists will hit the road this holiday, 1.6 percent fewer than last year.

However, while fewer people may be traveling this week, those who do will be going farther. In 2012, Thanksgiving travelers journeyed an average of 588 miles round-trip. In 2013, that number is expected to jump to 601.

The nice news for motorists isn't just that they'll have more elbow room on the highway:gas prices will be lower, too. The current cost for a gallon of unleaded regular gasoline is $3.28, but AAA notes that in many parts of the country, the price has slipped below $3.00.Thanksgiving gas prices haven't been that low since the fall of 2010.

The news isn't quite as good for those hoping to rent a car for the drive: rental rates are up six percent over Thanksgiving of 2013.  

AAA attributes the decline in travel -- both on the roads and in the skies -- to the sluggish U.S. economic recovery, which has made consumers nervous about shelling out for getaways. Then again, it might also have something to do with Americans' tendency to drive less nowadays

Americans: are you heading out this holiday week? If not, what's keeping you close to home? The cost? Work? Aunt Paula's unpalatable cranberry compote? If you've changed your traditional plans, we'd love to know why -- tell us all about it in the comments below.

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