Despite continued economic uncertainty, more Americans are expected to choose family over finances with a projected increase in Thanksgiving travel this year.

HAMILTON, N.J. – AAA Mid-Atlantic projections indicate that more than 1 million New Jersey residents will travel 50 miles or more for Thanksgiving this year, a slight increase from last year.  The 2011 Thanksgiving holiday travel period is defined as Wednesday, November 23rd to Sunday, November 27th.

For 2011, approximately 1,048,104 New Jersey travelers will take to the roads, rails and skies this year, AAA Mid-Atlantic says.

Travel by transportation mode:

  • By Automobile:
    • 934,393; or, 89% of all travelers
      • Up 2% compared to 2010.
  • By Air:
    • 99,039; or, 9% of all travelers.
      • Down .2% compared to 2010.
  • By Other Mode:
    • 14,672; or, 1% of all travelers.
      • Up 12% compared to 2010.

This year, it’s estimated that 42.5 million Americans will travel during the Thanksgiving holiday, a four percent increase from 2010.  While travel estimates continue to show improvement from one year ago, growth levels are not high enough to support a quick return to pre-recession levels of holiday travel. Rather a slow climb back is expected from 2008, which was a decade-low year for Thanksgiving travel with only 37.8 million Americans taking a trip. With volumes still below historical averages, demand will be a contributing factor in increased holiday travel, despite current economic conditions.

“The increase in Thanksgiving travelers is a result of pent-up demand from Americans who may have forgone holiday travel the last three years,” says Tracy Noble, AAA Mid-Atlantic spokesperson. “As consumers weigh the fear of economic uncertainty and the desire to create lasting family memories this holiday more Americans are expected to choose family and friends over frugality.”  

Just a week out from the Thanksgiving holiday, motorists are left wondering what will happen to gas prices leading up to the busiest travel holiday of the year.  The national average for regular grade gasoline dropped 6 cents this week to $3.38 on Friday.  Prices are 9 cents below month ago prices but 49 cents above year-ago prices, yet 73 cents below the all-time high of $4.11 per gallon set in July 2008.  Analysts believe national gas prices will remain above $3.30 per gallon through Thanksgiving and decline, albeit slightly, through the end of the year.  In New Jersey, the average gas prices are at $3.28, up 43 cents from a year ago.

Trips by automobile are the dominant mode of transportation for holiday travel in New Jersey with 89 percent of travelers reaching their destination by driving. This is a slight increase of 2% from last Thanksgiving when 916,186 New Jerseyans reached their destination by motor vehicle.  

Thanksgiving travel in the Mid-Atlantic Region - comprised of New Jersey, New York and Pennsylvania - is forecast to be up 3.5% in 2011 compared to last year.

  • Pennsylvania’s travel is forecast by AAA to increase by 2.3% to 1.2 million.
  • New York State’s travel is forecast by AAA to increase by 4.7% to 2.5 million.