Improving Economy Brings 4.7 percent increase in Thanksgiving travel to the West North Central Region as Kansans Pay Lowest Gas Prices since 2010

By AAA Kansas
November 21, 2014

AAA Travel projects nearly Four Million travelers from the West North Central Region (includes KS, MO, NE, IA, MN & the Dakotas), over the Thanksgiving holiday, an increase of 4.7 percent and the highest volume of travel since 2007.

This region will experience the largest percent of its population traveling than any other region, nearly 19 percent (18.8%).  That compares to the national average of 14.5 percent. 

“The forecast increase is attributed to an improving economy, rising disposable income and continued optimism from the region’s consumers,” said James Hanni, AAA Kansas spokesman. 

The Thanksgiving holiday travel period is defined as Wednesday, November 26 through Sunday, November 30.

Thanksgiving holiday travel in the West North Central Region is expected to reach the highest level since 2007, with nearly 4 million taking a trip.  This region also has the highest percentage of the population traveling, at 18.8 percent, compared to the national average of 14.5 percent.

The 2014 regional forecast is 4.7 percent higher than the 3.78 million who traveled last year, compared to the national growth rate of 4.2 percent and the greatest growth rate for any holiday since Independence Day 2012.

Road trippers will pay the lowest price for fuel in four years.  Today’s average price of gas in Kansas is $2.72 per gallon, which is about 25 cents lower than the average price for Thanksgiving a year ago ($2.97 per gallon).

While more than 89 percent of travelers (41.3 million) will travel by automobile, a 4.3 percent increase from 39.6 million last year, 91 percent of West North Central region travelers will take a road trip.  That is a 4.9 percent increase for regional auto travel over Thanksgiving.

Air travel for Thanksgiving in the region is also expected to be at the highest level since 2007, with about 185,000 West North Central travelers taking to the skies, an increase of 2.5 percent.

Travelers will encounter virtually no change in airfares, one percent higher, while mid-range hotels are up eight percent and car rentals cost 10 percent more.

The average distance traveled this Thanksgiving will be 549 miles roundtrip and Americans will spend an average of $573 during the holiday weekend.

Impact of gasoline prices on travel plans

The price of gas in Kansas has fallen below $2.73 per gallon for the first time since November 6, 2010, a welcome gift for travelers as they head into the holiday travel season. AAA predicts most travelers will pay the cheapest Thanksgiving gas prices in four years.  Reasons:  Falling global crude oil prices have led to national pump prices falling 54 consecutive days, the longest streak of declines since 2008; Foreign and domestic supplies of crude oil outpacing worldwide demand; cost savings from winter blends of fuel that are cheaper to refine.  Downward pressure should continue through the Thanksgiving holiday.  Market watchers continue to speculate on what action OPEC will take during its upcoming meeting on Nov. 27.  If they choose to maintain market share by leaving production unchanged, global oil prices could slide even further.  If they opt to cut production, the price at the pump could move higher.

Travel expenses rise modestly

According to AAA’s Leisure Travel Index, hotel rates for AAA Three Diamond lodgings are expected to increase eight percent from one year ago with travelers spending an average of $154 per night compared to $142 last year. The average hotel rate for AAA Two Diamond hotels has risen nine percent with an average cost of $114 per night.  Weekend daily car rental rates will average $55, ten percent higher than last year. Airfares will only increase one percent, with an average discounted round-trip rate of $189 across 40 top domestic routes.  

Most of travelers’ budgets go toward transportation, food and shopping

U.S. Travelers are expected to spend an average of $573 over the course of their holiday travels. However for our region, the average spending is just $342, due to proportionally more auto travel in the region v. other regions.  Despite lower average gas prices, travelers are allocating 31 percent of their budgets to fuel transportation and although the average roundtrip distance for a trip is 440 miles in our region, most (33 percent) range between 150-250 miles.