Pent-up demand to fuel Thanksgiving trips

Despite travel-related costs jumping from a year ago, more people are expected to hit the road for Thanksgiving, according to AAA forecasts. The recession has kept them pent up for so long, they can’t take it anymore. They haven’t seen Grandma in a couple years so they’re taking a trip, cost be damned.

People haven’t been traveling the last couple years. In 2007, there were 50.6 million Thanksgiving weekend travelers. That dropped to 37.8 in 2008, 37.7 in 2009 and came back a little to 40.9 million last year. Last year’s trend is expected to continue with 42.5 million travelers next weekend, despite the average cost of unleaded rising 63 cents from a year ago, to $3.74 a gallon.

Thanksgiving will buck the trend so far this year, with travel flat for Memorial Day and down for Independence Day and Labor Day.

Air fares are about 20 percent higher than last year, but AAA expects 1.8 percent more fliers. Hotels are up 6 percent. About the only thing to get a deal on is weekend car rental, at $37 a day.

Travelers will be staying closer to home this year, averaging 706 miles instead of last year’s 816. I’ll be driving 23 miles to work and 23 miles back home, probably somewhere to cover an event and to the sheriff’s office to read reports. You folks be good so I’m not having to write up a bunch of police items, and have a great Thanksgiving.