About 1,170,000 North Carolinians are expected to drive to their destination this Thanksgiving weekend, an increase of about 36,000 travelers over last year. A total of 1,291,000 North Carolinians are expected to travel 50 miles or more from home, with motorists composing about 90% of all travelers.
The Thanksgiving holiday period is defined as Wednesday, Nov. 27, to Sunday, Dec. 1. The highest number of travelers (37%) will depart on Wednesday and most will return on Sunday (33%). For air travel, the busiest departure date is Monday, Nov. 25, with the highest number expected to return the following Monday, Dec. 2, or later.
Thanksgiving is one of the most dangerous annual holidays due to its five-day length, with increased highway traffic concentrated particularly on Wednesday and Sunday. Last year, 15 people died in crashes on North Carolina highways over the holiday weekend.
“As a traditional family holiday, Thanksgiving is the busiest travel weekend of the year,” said David E. Parsons, president and CEO of AAA Carolinas. “Drivers should expect heavy congestion and plan on taking more time to reach their destination.”
North Carolina gas prices, averaging $3.23 today, are down 28 cents from Labor Day, Sept. 2, when they averaged $3.51. North Carolinians are paying seven cents less at the pump compared to a year ago, when they paid $3.31 heading into the Thanksgiving holiday weekend.
The highest average price in North Carolina is in Asheville at $3.30 per gallon of unleaded; the least expensive average price is in Fayetteville at $3.18.
North Carolina motorists can expect to see lower gas prices in the bordering states of South Carolina ($3.07), Virginia ($3.13), Tennessee ($3.08) and Georgia ($3.22).
In spite of slightly lower airfares, down 1% from last year, fewer travelers will be taking to the skies this year, about 90,000 or 7% of all travelers. An estimated 31,000 (3%) will use other modes of transportation, such as train, boat or bus.
The roughly 40% of travelers not staying with relatives or friends will find hotel rates relatively flat to last year. AAA Three Diamond hotels average $142 per night, compared to $143 last year, while AAA Two Diamond hotels are $105 compared to $104 in 2012. AAA rates hotels from one to five Diamonds based on standards in physical attributes, hospitality and amenities. AAA Three Diamond hotels represent the largest number of AAA rated accommodations.
Car rental rates have increased 6%, from an average of $47 per day in 2012 to $50 per day this year.
There are expected to be no significant construction delays along North Carolina interstates, as most projects will be suspended from 4 p.m. Tuesday, Nov. 26, until 9 a.m. Monday, Dec. 2, with one exception: U.S. 158 (Elizabeth Street) in Elizabeth City is reduced to one lane in each direction over the Pasquotank River for resurfacing and construction of a new bridge.
For the latest on construction delays, go to the North Carolina Department of Transportation website, www.ncdot.org. Click on Travel & Maps and then on the Traveler Information Management System for up-to-date traffic information related to closed travel lanes, accidents or expected congestion due to special events.
South Carolina Department of Transportation prohibits lane closures on interstate highways and high-volume multilane routes during the Thanksgiving holiday weekend, considered to be from noon on Wednesday, Nov. 27, until 6 a.m. Monday, Dec. 2.
Survey data is taken from AAA’s Leisure Travel Index, AAA/HIS Global Insight holiday travel forecast and AAA Carolinas data.
To estimate fuel costs, travelers can go to www.fuelcostcalculator.com to input starting city, destination, and the make and model of their car.
The free AAA Mobile app for iPhone and Android devices uses GPS navigation to help travelers map a route, find updated gas prices, view nearby member discounts and access AAA Roadside Assistance.
AAA Carolinas, an affiliate of the American Automobile Association, is a not-for-profit organization that serves more than 1.9 million members and the public with travel, automobile and insurance services while being an advocate for the safety and security of all travelers.
Connect with AAA Carolinas on Facebook at www.facebook.com/AAAcarolinas and follow us on Twitter at @AAAcarolinas.
AAA Carolinas Recommended Travel Tips
With heavy traffic expected on the roads this holiday, families should take extra measures to ensure safety on the highway. AAA Carolinas recommends:
* Drivers take a break every two hours or 150 miles. Get out and stretch to reenergize your brain as well as pump blood to your muscles.
* On long trips, switch drivers regularly, preferably with someone who has been sitting in the back seat. Passengers sitting in the front seat with the driver are paying attention to the road as well and can experience just as much fatigue as the driver.
* Add about 15 minutes to every hour the trip typically takes to drive cautiously with the increased traffic
* Get a vehicle checkup before hitting the road. Be sure to check fluids and your tires, especially the spare tire.
* Follow the rules of the road – obey the speed limit, wear seat belts and never drink and drive.
Air travelers should be ready to pay for checked baggage, snacks, preferred seating and even pillows and blankets.
* Arrive at the airport two or more hours before your flight’s departure to absorb potential delays due to security.
* Carry a bag on the plane to save baggage check-in costs and possible delays in baggage areas.
* Be sure to have required identification available such as driver’s license, state photo identity cards or U.S. passport to go through security lines.
* Any carry-on bags must follow the 3-1-1 rule. Only three ounces or less of liquids or gels can be carried, in a one-quart size zip lock bag in one bag to be carried on the plane.
* Purchase any water, drinks, snacks or food to carry on the plane after passing through airport security, saving money over the cost of food offered for sale on the plane.