Gas prices down, travel expected to be up for Thanksgiving

Nov. 21, 2013 @ 09:35 PM

Gas price averages are down in Durham and across the state in time for the busiest holiday travel period of the year.

About 1.17 million North Carolinians are expected to drive for Thanksgiving this year, for an increase of about 3 percent, according to a news release from AAA Carolinas, an affiliate of the American Automobile Association, a not-for-profit that provides with travel, automobile and insurance services.
Including people traveling by air or other means of transportation, the total number of people traveling in the state is up about 2 percent to $1.29 million.
The number has increased steadily each year since hitting a bottom in 2008, according to Angela Daley, a spokeswoman for AAA Carolinas, but still, the total isn’t back up to pre-recession numbers. Daley said that in 2005, 1.67 million people were expected to travel for the holiday.
Still, AAA Carolinas President David E. Parsons cautioned people to expect congestion this year.
“As a traditional family holiday, Thanksgiving is the busiest travel weekend of the year,” Parsons said in a statement.
The largest share of travelers is expected to leave Wednesday, at the start of the holiday travel period, and the biggest day for return travel is expected to be at the end of the travel period on Dec. 1.
For air travelers, the busiest departure date is Monday, according to AAA Carolinas, with the highest number of people expected to return a week later on Dec. 2 or later.
“Drivers should expect heavy congestion and plan on taking more time to each their destination(s),” Parsons said.
Gas prices are down compared with this time last year. The state’s average on Thursday was $3.23, which is down 7 cents compared with the average on Nov. 20 last year. Durham’s average price on Thursday was $3.24, down 8 percent compared with the average on Nov. 20 last year.
Airfares are expected to be “slightly lower” this year, according to the release, while hotel rates are expected to be approximately flat. Car rental rates are up 6 percent.
There are expected to be no significant construction delays along North Carolina interstates, as most projects will be suspended from 4 p.m. Tuesday until 9 a.m. Dec. 2, with one exception in Elizabeth City.
AAA Carolinas’ survey data came from AAA's Leisure Travel Index, AAA/HIS Global Insight holiday travel forecast and AAA Carolinas data, according to the release.