Drop in gas prices fuels increase in Thanksgiving holiday travel | News
Thanksgiving holiday travel volume in South Carolina is expected to increase 1% this year, due in part to the dramatic drop in gas prices, according to AAA Carolinas.
A total of 617,110 South Carolinians are expected to travel 50 miles or more from home. About 555,400 or 90% of those will drive, an increase of about 5,400 travelers over last year.
Thanksgiving is one of the most dangerous annual holidays due to its four-day length and the congestion caused by the high number of highway vacationers.
The Thanksgiving holiday period is defined as Wednesday, Nov. 21, to Sunday, Nov. 25. The highest number of travelers (45%) will depart on Wednesday and most will return on Sunday (36%).
Gas prices in South Carolina have dropped significantly in the past two months. The statewide average is $3.13 today, down 50 cents since peaking in mid-September at $3.63. South Carolinians are paying two cents less at the pump compared to last Thanksgiving, when they paid $3.14.
"Thanksgiving is the most traditional family holiday with the 'turkey day' always coming on a Thursday, creating a guaranteed four-day holiday for many," said David E. Parsons, president and CEO of AAA Carolinas. "The lower price at the pump will encourage more people to drive this Thanksgiving."
South Carolina currently has the second-lowest average gas price in the country; Missouri has the lowest at $3.08. The highest average price in South Carolina is in Charleston at $3.19 per gallon of unleaded self-service; the least expensive average price is in Myrtle Beach at $3.05.
Although Hurricane Sandy hasn't affected gas prices in South Carolina, motorists traveling to the Northeast can expect to pay more, particularly in New York, which at $3.93 currently has the most expensive gas in the continental United States.
South Carolina motorists can also expect to see higher gas prices in the bordering states of North Carolina ($3.31) and Georgia ($3.26).
In spite of decreasing airfares, fewer travelers will be taking to the skies this year, about 49,000 or 8% of all travelers. An estimated 12,000 (2%) will use other modes of transportation, such as train, boat or bus.
More South Carolinians will travel closer to home, averaging about 588 miles round-trip, and the roughly 40% of travelers not staying with relatives or friends will find hotel rates relatively flat to last year. AAA Three Diamond hotels are down 1% from a year ago, while AAA Two Diamond hotels are up 1% from last year. Car rentals have increased 27% in the past year, from an average $37 per day in 2011 to $47 per day this year.
There are expected to be no significant construction delays along South Carolina interstates, as South Carolina's Department of Transportation requires contractors to keep all lanes open during heavy travel holidays.
To estimate fuel costs, travelers can go to www.fuelcostcalculator.com to input starting city, destination, and the make and model of their car.
The free AAA Mobile app for iPhone and Android devices uses GPS navigation to help travelers map a route, find updated gas prices, view nearby member discounts and access AAA roadside assistance.