TN travelers staying closer to home for Thanksgiving

10:44 AM, Nov 19, 2012   |    comments
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By Duane W. Gang | The Tennessean

For the four and a half years Gina Brown has lived in Nashville, she has always hit the road for Thanksgiving.

Not this year.

This time, her parents will visit her here, saving her the hassle of fighting traffic and getting her dogs ready for the trip to Chattanooga.

"I love my parents' home, and I do love the memories I have there," said Brown, 35, who works for the Tennessee Department of Economic and Community Development. "But things are different now. I have two dogs that go with me everywhere. I also drive a lot for my job."

This year, many Americans are sticking closer to home.

On average, Americans will travel about 588 miles round trip this Thanksgiving season, down 16.7 percent from last year as economic uncertainty continues to weigh on residents, according to estimates from the American Automobile Association.

In Tennessee, AAA estimates that nearly 1 million travelers will hit the road or take to the air for the holiday, just a 1.3 percent increase over last year.

The vast majority will travel by car, while the number of Tennesseans flying out of town for Thanksgiving is expected to decline 1.2 percent, according to the AAA's estimates. The number of Tennesseans traveling by bus or train for Thanksgiving is expected to jump by more than 25 percent.

Jessica Brady, a AAA spokeswoman for the Auto Club Group that covers Tennessee, Georgia and Florida, said the past couple of years saw strong travel growth. She attributes that to pent up demand after the recession in 2008.

But this year, the economy is likely again playing a factor in the flat travel growth estimates, she said.

People are spending less and taking shorter trips, Brady said.

Airlines nationwide are anticipating planes more than 90 percent full, according to Airlines for America, an industry trade group.

A typical day at the Nashville airport sees between 10,000 and 12,000 passengers. But this week, that number is expected to rise to 17,000, airport spokeswoman Emily Richard said.

The Sunday and Monday after Thanksgiving are the busiest travel days here with 19,000 and 18,000 passengers, respectively, expected to pass through the airport, Richard said.

"We are almost doubling our passenger numbers on Sunday and Monday," she said.

Holiday travel tips

For those traveling this week, there are tips to follow.

* When driving, Wednesday will be the busiest day, so consider leaving Tuesday instead, said Brady, the Auto Club Group spokeswoman.

* If using a GPS unit for the first time, she said it's also important to set it up in advance.

* That's all in addition to ensuring your car has had proper maintenance and packing light to boost gas mileage, she said.

* For those heading to the airport, it's important to arrive early, have proper identification and know what you can and can't take through security and onto the plane, Richard said.

Fewer travelers flying into Nashville will rent cars, with friends or family picking them up instead, Richard said. That means the pick-up and drop-off areas of the airport will be extra busy, she said.

But air travelers and those picking up loved ones will be entertained because New York's Radio City Music Hall Rockettes are scheduled to perform Wednesday at the airport.

Contact Duane W. Gang at 615-726-5982 or Follow him on Twitter @duanegang.

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