1.1 Million Michiganians Plan Thanksgiving Trip – Fewer Will Travel By Air

DEARBORN, Mich., Nov. 16 /PRNewswire/ — An estimated 1.1 million Michiganians — 10 percent more than last year — said they will travel during the 2005 Thanksgiving holiday period, says AAA Michigan. The vast majority (83 percent) will visit relatives.

Cars, trucks and vans represent the most popular form of Thanksgiving transportation (95 percent) – up 51 percent from 2004. Significantly fewer Michigan residents will travel by air this year compared to last (5 percent versus 28 percent). Vacation costs, money concerns and the local economy continue to impact travel plans for Michigan residents.

Statewide, motorists will find gas prices greatly reduced from previous months, but historically high, paying an average 27 cents more per gallon than last year at this time. The statewide average for self-serve regular (as of Nov. 15) is $2.209 per gallon — a record for the Thanksgiving holiday period.

“Although high, gas prices should not impact Thanksgiving travel as much as the state of our overall economy,” said Claire Lockley, assistant vice president Travel Product Management for The Auto Club Group. “With travelers looking for the best value for their dollar, and given the impact of recent hurricanes in the Gulf Coast, including the U.S. and Mexico, this may translate into attractive pricing for those seeking a warm-weather Thanksgiving destination.”

According to Lockley, Thanksgiving falls during firearm deer hunting season and the start of the holiday shopping season, so travelers should be prepared for intermittent traffic congestion on major roads and near airports. Among those planning a Thanksgiving vacation, 83 percent plan to go more than 100 miles from home and 45 percent plan to travel outside of Michigan.

More than half (57 percent) of travelers intend to stay with relatives during their journey, and 19 percent will stay at a hotel, motel or resort. Seven percent will stay at a second home and 5 percent will stay in a trailer or recreational vehicle.

The average trip will last four to five days at an average cost of $616. Peak travel dates include Wednesday, Nov. 23, and Sunday, Nov. 27.

To help cope with heavier-than-normal traffic volumes and heightened airport security, AAA recommends that travelers allow plenty of extra time to reach their destination. Check-in requirements for commercial airlines can result in loss of reserved seating for travelers who do not arrive on time (contact each airline directly for check-in rules and regulations).

AAA recommends arriving at the airport at least two to three hours before scheduled departure times. Other travel tips:

* Confirm flight schedules. Check with your airline either online or through a toll-free number to confirm flight schedules one week prior to departure and the day before departure.

* Print your boarding pass at home. Many airlines provide e-ticket services that allow you to print your boarding pass at home, complete with seat assignments. If you are checking luggage, you will still have to wait in line. If you have carry-on luggage only, you may proceed directly to security check-in.

* Be aware of airline carry-on luggage requirements. The size and number of carry-on items may be limited. Don’t wait until you board the plane to find that an item needs to be checked in.

* Expect heavy congestion in front of the terminals around curbfronts. Curbs will be reserved for active loading and unloading only. Drivers dropping off or picking up passengers will not be allowed to wait. Park in short-term parking and meet your party in the baggage claim area.

* Airport security measures mean more hand-searches of checked and carry- on baggage, which may cause slowdowns at check-in and screening checkpoints.

* All passengers are required to have photo identification at the ticket counter and checkpoints. This is true regardless of the type of ticket issued (paper or electronic).

* Wrap gifts AFTER you arrive at your destination. Security personnel may request that gifts be unwrapped at screening checkpoints.

* Stay calm in lines and during inspections. Don’t make jokes or take actions that may be construed as threatening.

* Consult airport Web sites for maps and information on parking availability.

The 102-hour Thanksgiving Day holiday (6 p.m. Wednesday, Nov. 23, to 11:59 p.m. Sunday, Nov. 27) is traditionally a time for family travel. But the holiday also falls at the end of the firearm deer hunting season, which means hunters will take advantage of the long holiday weekend. According to the Michigan Department of Natural Resources (DNR), during the 16-day firearm deer season (Nov. 15-30), about 750,000 hunters will spend more than $500 million for food, lodging and transportation.

A large deer herd, combined with large numbers of cars on the road, creates a high probability for collisions. In 2004, 62,707 deer-vehicle crashes were reported. Three people were killed as a result of these crashes and 1,647 more were injured.

During the 2004 Thanksgiving holiday period, 10 persons died in 10 crashes on Michigan roads, compared with 19 deaths in 2003. Restraints were used by 30 percent of the victims who had them available. Two, or 20 percent of the fatal crashes, were alcohol-related.

AAA Michigan urges all motorists to avoid alcohol, buckle up, be well rested, and drive defensively. For the latest Michigan traffic and construction reports, visit http://www.aaa.com/ , enter your ZIP code and click on “Real-Time Traffic Information.”

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