Gasoline prices have dropped for five straight weeks, pushing the national average cost of a gallon of regular gasoline down to around $2.62 a gallon early Monday morning. By Thanksgiving Day, Gasbuddy.com forecasts price will slide further to $2.57 a gallon.
Even with prices tumbling since early October, motorists this year will pay more to get to their Thanksgiving dinner than in any year since 2014 when gasoline cost $2.79 a gallon. Last year gas cost $2.53 a gallon. Nearly a third of people Gasbuddy surveyed said high gas prices are affecting their travel plans.
Patrick DeHaan, Gasbuddy’s head of petroleum analysis, noted that even though there will be fewer drivers on the road this year, the higher cost of gas means that travelers will spend nearly $80 million more over this Thanksgiving holiday travel period than they did last year.
The good news, says DeHaan, is that U.S. motorists will spend $1.7 billion less this holiday than they did in 2012 when the average price per gallon was $3.44.
A full 70% of all holiday travelers will be driving alone (15%) or with just one or two additional passengers (55%). Another 25% will have 3 or 4 passengers in addition to the driver, and just 5% will be taking 5 or 6 passengers along.
According to the Gasbuddy survey, the percentage of Americans traveling by car to celebrate the holiday this year drops from 73% to 58%. This may be due to the higher (or at least perceived higher price for gas this year) or it could be due to more Americans choosing to fly or take some other mode of transportation.
The U.S. Transportation Safety Administration (TSA) said Monday that it projects some 25 million Thanksgiving holiday air travelers this year, up by 7% from last year. Even those planning to fly can take along special holiday food items provided they are packed properly.
Travel industry research firm Airlines for America estimates an even higher total for air travel–30.6 million, up from about 29 million a year ago. The firm also noted that airfares in the first half of this year averaged $360, including $22 in fees. That’s down more than 7% since 2010.