Higher fuel prices not predicted to slow holiday travel

Even an 80 cents-per-gallon rise in fuel prices won’t put the brakes on families getting together for the Thanksgiving holiday, AAA says.

The travel agency forecasts that 33.2 million Americans will venture at least 50 miles from home by hitting the road during the five-day period that begins Wednesday.

The forecast represents an increase of 2.1 percent from a year ago. And despite gasoline averaging $2.57 a gallon this week — up from $1.74 a year earlier — the price has held relatively steady during the past month or so, Hanni said, allowing families to better plan for the monetary cost of getting together.

“Most people are just going a short distance, to what we call neighboring communities — mostly around Kansas and within an hour or two, no more than a day away,” said Jim Hanni, executive vice president for AAA’s Kansas Region. “(Fortunately,) most people don’t have to go too far to get to grandma’s house.”

Overall, 38.4 million Americans will be expected to travel for Thanksgiving, up 1.4 percent from a year earlier. The forecasted increase would be a turnaround of sorts, as last year’s total represented a decrease of 25 percent from 2007, when 50.6 million were traveling.

While fuel costs are up, travelers can take advantage of reductions in other transportation expenses this season, Hanni said. Rates for many hotels are down 11 to 13 percent, while airfares for flights to many popular destinations are down 4 percent and rates for rental cars are down about 3 percent.