Going over the hills and through the woods to grandmother’s house or elsewhere will be a common theme this Thanksgiving.
The American Automobile Association Kansas projects nearly 3.9 million in the West North Central region, of which Kansas is a part, will journey 50 miles or more from home this Thanksgiving weekend, an increase of about 23,000 travelers compared with last year. This represents the most Thanksgiving travelers since 2007.
A larger share of the population in the region (16.5 million), is travelling by car, more than any other part of the country. The Thanksgiving holiday travel period is defined as Wednesday, Nov. 23, to Sunday, Nov. 27.
“This year’s increase in Thanksgiving travel is spurred by improvements in the economy during the second half of the year, including rising wages, increased consumer spending and overall strength in consumer confidence,” said AAA spokesman Jim Hanni. And despite recent incremental increases in the national average price of gasoline, the AAA reports, AAA estimates U.S. drivers have saved more than $28 billion so far at the pumps this year compared to the same period last year.
“A total of 23,000 more travelers in our region than last year will carve out time to visit with friends and family this Thanksgiving,” Hanni said. “Most will travel on the tried and true holiday road trip, thanks to gas prices that are holding at close to $2 per gallon. The average price of gas in Kansas has gone down every day since October 11, 2016. Others will fly, take the bus or set off on a cruise to celebrate with their loved ones.”
Cars remain king
The vast majority of the region—nearly 91 percent—of holiday travelers will drive this Thanksgiving, Hanni said. The 43.5 million Americans planning a Thanksgiving road trip represents an increase of 1.9 percent over last year. Air travel is expected to increase 1.6 percent, with 3.69 million Americans flying to their holiday destinations, including 190,000 in this region. Travel by other modes of transportation, including cruises, trains and buses, will increase only slightly this Thanksgiving, to 1.44 million travelers.
Thanksgiving gas prices second-cheapest in nearly a decade
Today’s Kansas average price for a gallon of gasoline is $1.94, four cents less than the average price on Thanksgiving last year ($1.98). Most U.S. drivers will pay the second-cheapest Thanksgiving gas prices since 2008, when the national average was $1.85.
Thanksgiving airfares, hotel rates and car rental prices mixed
According to AAA’s Leisure Travel Index, airfares are projected to increase 21 percent this Thanksgiving, landing at an average of $205 for a roundtrip flight for the top 40 domestic routes. Rates for AAA Three Diamond-rated lodgings are expected to remain flat, with travelers spending an average of $155 per night. The average rate for a AAA Two Diamond-rated hotel has risen four percent with an average nightly cost of $123. Daily car rental rates will average $52, 13 percent lower than last Thanksgiving.
AAA will rescue thousands of motorists this Thanksgiving
AAA Kansas expects to rescue more than 1,200 motorists this Thanksgiving, with the primary reasons being towing, dead batteries and lockouts. AAA recommends that motorists check the condition of their battery and tires and pack emergency kits in their vehicles before heading out on a holiday getaway. Drivers should have their vehicles inspected by a trusted repair shop.
AAA’s projections are based on economic forecasting and research by IHS Markit. The London-based business information provider teamed with AAA in 2009 to jointly analyze travel trends during major holidays. AAA has been reporting on holiday travel trends for more than two decades.
Gas prices continue to push lower across the state
Kansas motorists, for the most part, continue to see a drop in gas prices across the state. Of the areas the American Automobile Association monitors, the drop is anywhere from two cents to six cents per gallon.
The National average is $2.17 with the state average coming in at $1.94. Kansas reports the fourth lowest average price of the 50 states with Missouri, Oklahoma, Arkansas and Indiana rounding out the cheapest five.
Topeka continues to be in the top five metro areas in the nation for the lowest price. Lawrence is ranked 11th, Wichita 15th and Kansas City, Kan., Is ranked 25th cheapest metro prices in the nation. Lawrence is seeing a double digit savings over last year, while other areas discounts are beginning to thin over last year’s prices.
Of the 263 locations AAA follows, 211 in Kansas are now at two dollars or less. The lowest prices in the state are in Parsons at $1.74; Altamont at $1.77; Auburn at $1.80; Paxico at $1.80 and Topeka at $1.81.
Great Bend falls in at $1.97.
According to AAA, pump prices have fallen for 10 consecutive days, reaching today’s national average price of $2.17. Drivers are benefitting from the price of retail gasoline with today’s average five cents less per gallon than one week ago and eight cents less than one month ago. “The abundance of crude oil in the global market is contributing to lower prices, and as a result, retail averages are the same price as compared to one year ago,” the AAA’s Jim Hanni said.
Historically, gasoline demand tends to decline during the month of November, and with the autumn refinery maintenance season nearing completion, pump prices are expected to move lower to close out the year, barring any unanticipated outages or supply disruptions, AAA reports.