STATE – AAA Mid-Atlantic projections indicate that fewer than 800,000 New Jersey residents will travel 50 miles or more for Thanksgiving this year, the smallest Garden State travel total in six years and a nearly five percent decrease compared to 2008.
About 795,000 total 2009 travelers will take to the roads, rails and skies this year, AAA says. Broken down by transportation mode:
• By Automobile: 688,000; or, 86% of all travelers (Down 4.8% compared to 2008)
• By “Other” mode: 54,000; or, 8% of all travelers (Down 3.6% compared to 2008)
• By Air: 52,000; or, 6% of all travelers (Down 13.3% compared to 2008)
For the first time, “Other” travel in New Jersey, which consists of trains, watercraft or a multi-modal trip, surpasses air travel, highlighting air fares that rose dramatically throughout October, a time when many potential travelers make final Thanksgiving travel decisions.
Air travel in New Jersey for Thanksgiving 2009 is forecast to decrease by more 13% compared to 2008. Air fare from Philadelphia and Newark / New York is up over 2008 from 3% (Philadelphia to Miami) to 56% (New York to Ft. Lauderdale).
The survey from which AAA’s travel forecast is based was in the field in late October, a time when gas prices were atypically increasing. The state average at the beginning of the month ($2.33) was more than 20 cents cheaper than when the month ended ($2.54). Pump prices have since stabilized – and should remain stable through Thanksgiving – and starting the week at $2.517.
“Rising gas prices and rising air fare didn’t go unnoticed. Our forecast depicts uncertainty from Garden State travelers,” AAA Mid-Atlantic spokesman David Weinstein said. “Every travel mode is less popular than last year. It’s an unattractive forecast.”
The 795,000 New Jerseyans AAA forecasts to travel would be the fewest Thanksgiving Holiday travelers since 2003, when only 797,000 traveled, AAA records show. The top travel year this decade was 2004 – 1.24 million traveled more than 50 miles from home for Thanksgiving that year.
In 2009, nearly 700,000 will travel by car or truck in the Garden State, which is almost a 5% decrease compared to 2008. It’s also the second-lowest number of automobile travelers since 2000 in New Jersey – just 645,000 traveled by car or truck in 2003. The top year this decade for Thanksgiving cars and trucks travel was 2006 – 977,000 traveled more than 50 miles from home for Thanksgiving that year.
Nationally, Thanksgiving travel is forecast to increase slightly more than 1% to 38.4 million folks. The increase is primarily driven by large increases in forecast travel in New England and the Pacific region.
Thanksgiving travel in the Mid-Atlantic Region – comprised of New Jersey, New York and Pennsylvania – is forecast to be down 4% in 2009 compared to last year. Pennsylvania’s travel is forecast by AAA to decrease by 4.8% to 904,000. New York State’s travel is forecast by AAA to decrease by 4.6% to 1.97 million.