Thanksgiving Travelers Smash Records

As we all know from the personal experience of enduring long lines at the airport and inching along frosty highways in bumper-to-bumper holiday traffic, Thanksgiving week is unquestionably one of the busiest long-distance travel periods of the year. Long-distance trips increase by 54 percent around Thanksgiving, a huge number, especially when considering that the increase for Christmas is just 23 percent compared to the average for the rest of the year. The average mileage for these long-distance Turkey Day trips (classified by the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Bureau of Transportation Statistics as to and from a ­destination 50 miles or more away) is a whopping 214 miles.

Unfortunately, it’s looking like all of those miles are going to add up to hefty tabs at the pumps this year. Thanksgiving travelers can expect to spend more on gas this year than on other holiday road trips in the last few years. According to analysis by GasBuddy.com, gas prices across the United States are nearly 40 cents higher per gallon than they were at this time last year, and that number could grow by Thanksgiving week. As of last week, the national gas price range spanned from $2.21 per gallon to $3.22 per gallon according to numbers collected by AAA.

On the bright side, all that fuel money --or almost all of it--will be staying in the U.S., as, perhaps unsurprisingly, over 99 percent of the long-distance trips over Thanksgiving week are to destinations within the country’s borders. The price, of course, depends on where you’re situated in the United States, with the cheapest prices in Texas, the Midwest (including Indiana, Illinois, Kansas, Virginia and Oklahoma) and the Southeast (the Carolinas, Virginia and Georgia). The highest gas prices this Thanksgiving will be found closer to the Pacific Northwest, topped only by California.

Experts are saying that in addition to the normal global flux in fuel prices, we can thank this year’s unprecedented hurricane season for the hefty price tags at fueling stations. Hurricane Harvey in particular was one factor that lead this Thanksgiving to have the highest gasoline prices in two years. The nation’s highest gas rates of 2017 were recorded in August, just after Harvey hit the Gulf Coast, the oil refining powerhouse of the nation.

Interestingly, the brunt of these travel expenses will be borne by--yes, that omnipresent buzz-demographic-- millennials. Statistics show that those who travel during the holiday season are younger on average than those travelling long distances for the rest of the year. The average age of the Thanksgiving traveler, according to the U.S. Bureau of Transportation Statistics, is just under 34 years and slightly above 36 years. It makes sense, as younger family members will be flocking to the houses of long-established Thanksgiving hosts--parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles, and the like.

Online marketplace platform LendEDU polled 1,000 American consumers ages 18 and up on their anticipated expenditures for Thanksgiving 2017 and found that the average anticipated cost is about $165.14 per person for Turkey Day this year. 40.93 percent of this total is expected to be spent on travel alone (including the price of plane tickets, gas money, bus tickets, hotel expenses, etc.), amounting to $67.59 in average travel expenses for each consumer.

All the same, driving remains the most popular mode of travel for Thanksgiving. More than 90 percent of travelers will be making their way toward the turkey from behind the wheel of an automobile. Last year 43.5 million people in the U.S. hit the road for the occasion, compared to just 1.44 million people who used other modes of transport. This year, the AAA predicts that over 50 million Americans will be traveling to celebrate the holiday - a 3.3 percent increase over last year, and the highest number in the past 12 years.

By Haley Zaremba for Oilprice.com