DALLAS — The slowly improving economy could boost travel over the Thanksgiving holiday to levels not seen in nine years.
AAA forecasts that 48.7 million Americans will travel, the busiest Thanksgiving period on U.S. roads and skies since 2007, the year before the global financial crisis plunged the U.S. economy into a deep recession.
The auto club AAA said Tuesday that it expects 1 million more Americans to venture at least 50 miles from home, a 1.9 percent increase over last year.
In Illinois, 2.5 million people will be traveling for the holiday weekend, a 1.6 percent increase from 2015. Of those travelers, nearly 2.3 million will be driving (up 1.9 percent from 2015) and 182,000 will be flying to their destination (a 1.5 percent decrease from 2015). Gas prices across Illinois are averaging $2.10 a gallon, down from $2.21 in 2015.
The forecast was assembled at research firm IHS, which said it considered jobs, household net worth, the stock market, prices for gasoline and airline tickets, and other factors.
The researchers did their number crunching in mid-October, about three weeks before the surprising outcome in the presidential election.
The AAA forecast predicts that from Wednesday, Nov. 23, through Sunday, Nov. 27, about 43.5 million Americans will take long car trips, 1.9 percent more than last year. AAA expects 3.7 million will travel by air, a 1.6 percent increase. Bus and train trips will grow less than 1 percent, the auto group said.
An airline-industry trade group is a bit more bullish. Airlines for America predicts that air travel will rise 2.5 percent over last year’s holiday, although the group considers Thanksgiving travel spanning a 12-day period that begins Nov. 18.
AIR TRAVEL TIPS
Planes are likely to be packed over the holiday, and bad weather or airline computer malfunctions can slow things to a crawl. If the unexpected happens, be ready to react quickly.
• Arrive early. At some airports, including Dallas-Fort Worth International and Dallas Love Field, garages and other facilities are under construction, making matters worse.
• Pack smart. Don’t put anything you really need — medicine, passport, other important papers — in your rollaboard bag; or remember to remove it if the airline orders you to gate-check your bag, which happens when flights are full and bins are overstuffed.
• Customer assistance. If your flight is canceled, get in line to talk to an airline customer rep but call the airline too. You might have better luck reaching an overseas number — look up the numbers before your trip.