Travel to be down for Thanksgiving in U.S. and New England

Motorists drive on the Route 8 highway in Shelton.
Motorists drive on the Route 8 highway in Shelton.

Despite the cheapest gas prices for Thanksgiving since 2010, it looks like fewer folks will be visiting grandma for pumpkin pie this holiday.

In its annual holiday travel survey, the AAA motor club projects a 1.5% decrease in the number of people traveling from Nov. 27 to Dec. 1. This year, an estimated 43.4 million folks will journey 50 miles or more this holiday weekend, compared to the 44 million who traveled last year.

So look for busy roadways and crowded airports on Wednesday, which is expected to be the busiest, single day of travel with an estimated 37% of the travelers leaving on their trip. About one-third (33%) are expected to return Sunday, while 24% plan to be home Monday or later.

Most people to travel by car

Of the overall 43.4 million travelers:

— 90% (or 38.9 million) will travel by auto, a 1.6% decline.

— 7% (or 3.1 million) will travel by air, a 3.7% decline.

— the remaining 3% (or 1.4 million) will take some other mode of transportation, including rail, bus or ship.

Decline blamed on sluggish economy

Bringing these numbers closer to home, the survey found that 13% of the New England population plans to travel this holiday but overall travel originating from New England will be down 2.5% this holiday.

Travel experts are attributing this year's overall travel decline to the country's sluggish economic recovery. Even though the economy continues to improve, there's still an air of uncertainty in the minds of travelers about spending money.

Gas prices down from a year ago

On a positive note, however, national gas prices are declining. AAA — previously known as the American Automobile Association — estimates most drivers will pay the cheapest gas prices for the Thanksgiving holiday since 2010.

On Nov. 25, the average national price of a gallon of gas is $3.80, which is 85 cents lower than this time last year.

In Connecticut, average prices are much higher, but they too are dropping. As of today, the average price of gas in Connecticut is $3.63, down 19 cents from this time last year.

About the survey and AAA

The AAA's projections are based on economic forecasting and research by IHS Global Insight. The Colorado-based business information provider teamed with AAA in 2009 to jointly analyze travel trends during the major holidays.

The AAA has been reporting on holiday travel trends for more than two decades.

Locally, AAA Southern New England has 50 offices in Connecticut, Massachusetts, New Jersey and Rhode Island. In Connecticut, the territory includes Fairfield, New Haven, and Litchfield counties.

The organization provides more than 3.5 million members with travel, insurance, finance, and auto-related services.