24 Nov 2009, 1:46pm
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Thanksgiving travel shows glimmer of hope

AAA Thanksgiving 2009 Travel Forecast

AAA Thanksgiving 2009 Travel Forecast

Americans shaken by last year’s economic crash may be regaining enough confidence to hit the roads in higher numbers this Thanksgiving, according to AAA.

When a wobbly economy finally nose-dived last fall, Thanksgiving trips also plunged, by 25 percent from the year before, the travel association reports.

This year, with unemployment higher than it’s been since 1983 despite economic growth last quarter, 38.4 million Americans — one in eight — will travel at least 50 miles from home, up a slight 1.4 percent.

But the numbers, like the economy, could be rickety.

First, AAA’s survey was taken in October, when gas prices were still 54 cents a gallon cheaper than a year ago. Prices have been stable since last month, but at this time last year they were dropping like a rock.

Regular unleaded today averages $2.64, a jump of 73 cents from last year, AAA says.

Second, with fewer people actually flying this Thanksgiving, some 86 percent are expected to drive. Two-thirds responding to AAA’s survey last month indicated they will spend more this Thanksgiving, but now some of that surplus cash could be slurped into fuel tanks and out of the hands of U.S. retailers.

Meanwhile, things look sunnier in our parts.

Travel in the Texas, Louisiana, Oklahoma and Arkansas region should be up 7 percent this Thanksgiving after caving 40 percent a year ago. About 3.3 million Texans will make trips, with 3 million driving.

If you plan to head out, check the “Before you hit the road” links onĀ our right sidebar, which give you the latest weather forecasts, road conditions, lowest gas prices and airport arrivals and departures.

As of this afternoon, the National Weather ServiceĀ forecasts great driving weather in Texas, at least for today and tomorrow, with mostly clear and dry days but increasing chances of rain at the end of the weekend.

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