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More Californians expected to travel for Thanksgiving

POSTED November 22, 2011 10:31 p.m.

In recent years tight budgets have forced countless California families to skip their annual Thanksgiving trips to see friends and family.

But this year that decline in travel is expected to bounce back, as more than 5.3 million Californians plan to travel 50 or more miles this Thanksgiving weekend, per AAA Northern California’s travel survey.

“Many Californians have foregone holiday family gatherings over the past three years,” said AAA Northern California spokesperson Cynthia Harris. “This year the overwhelming desire to travel has taken hold and the desire to create lasting family memories is proving to be more important than staying home for the Thanksgiving weekend.”

Overall, AAA Northern California projects a 4.1 percent increase in California travelers, compared to a year ago.

The sharpest individual percentage jump comes from the 145,000 Californians projected to travel by boat or train – up 14.9 percent from a year ago.

Air travel sees the smallest increase, up 1.9 percent to 620,000 travelers. AAA attributes the modest increase to a 20 percent year-over-year jump in fares; the average lowest round-trip rate for top 40 U.S. air routes is projected to be $212 this weekend.

The vast majority of travelers – more than 4.5 million Californians – will take to the roadways, up 4.1 percent from 2010. Stanislaus County drivers will pay 59 cents more per gallon of regular unleaded gasoline than a year ago – an average of $3.65 per gallon, with some stations selling gas as inexpensively as $3.35 per gallon – per gas price tracking site GasBuddy.com.

Hotels will be more expensive as well, up 6 percent for AAA Three Diamond lodgings to an average of $145 per night, and up 7 percent for AAA Two Diamond lodgings, to an average $103 nightly rate.

An average family of four will spend $906 during the weekend. Those families travelling by car will drive an average of 647 miles during the four-day weekend.

Nationwide, more than 42.5 million people will travel 50 miles or more this weekend, AAA says, up 4 percent from 2010.

To contact Alex Cantatore, e-mail acantatore@turlockjournal.com or call 634-9141 ext. 2005.

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