by Bart Jansen, USA TODAY
More people will hit the road for the Thanksgiving holiday this year, but they'll do so with tighter belts because of the sluggish economy, AAA predicted Tuesday.
The travel group projects that 43.6 million Americans will travel at least 50 miles for the holiday weekend, an increase of 0.7% from last year. If so, that would mark the fourth consecutive year of increases since the financial crisis of 2008.
Ninety percent will drive to Thanksgiving destinations and 7% will fly, according to Robert Darbelnet, AAA president. The average travel budget this year is $498, which he said is down from $544 last year.
Behind the predicted curb in spending, he said, is a year's worth of expensive gasoline, although its price has dropped from a peak in September to about the same level as last Thanksgiving. Rental cars will be $10, or 25%, higher a day.
The price of flying also will be higher.
Online travel agent Travelocity calculated that the average airfare is up 9% for the Thanksgiving travel period of Nov. 17 to 27. It found the average airfare of $386 is about $5 less than for the Fourth of July holiday.
Travelocity also found hotel room rates are about 2.4% higher than last year.
"So while year-over-year prices are up, Thanksgiving fares are about what we were seeing this summer on popular travel weekends," says Courtney Scott, a senior editor at Travelocity.
Less-expensive options include flying on Thanksgiving Day and returning the next day or the following Tuesday, she says.
The Transportation Security Administration reminded fliers Tuesday that to get through airport checkpoints more easily over the holiday they shouldn't pack wrapped presents in carry-on bags because security officers may need to unwrap them.
The TSA reiterated that fliers cannot carry weapons and fluids in containers larger than 3.4 ounces in carry-on bags. Smaller containers of liquids are allowed if placed in a clear, quart-sized bag for screening.
The agency suggested holiday travelers should put larger containers of cranberry sauce, creamy dips, jams, syrup or sauces in checked luggage.
If travelers have any questions, the agency has a smartphone application, MyTSA, to answer what is allowed in carry-on bags. The agency also has a "TSA Cares" phone number, 855-787-2227, to answer questions about what people with disabilities or medical conditions can expect to face at airport checkpoints.
"As we look at the holidays fast approaching, we are anticipating a busy travel season once again," TSA Administrator John Pistoles said. "That can create major challenges and opportunities for the traveling public, especially those who travel infrequently."
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