The Automobile Club of Southern California is projecting a 3.1 percent increase in Thanksgiving travel over 2015, with 3.65 million Southland residents expected to take holiday trips this year compared to 3.54 million last year. That’s the highest number of travelers for Thanksgiving since 2007, when 3.99 million Southern California residents took holiday getaways.
About 86 percent of this year’s local travelers, or 3.14 million, will drive to their destinations – a 3.4 percent increase over last year’s 3.04 million car travelers. Southern Californians’ air travel is expected to increase by 1.6 percent over last year to 389,000, and travel by other means such as bus, ship or train is expected to increase by 1.1 percent to 121,000.
Nearly 5.9 million residents statewide are expected to travel over Thanksgiving weekend this year, an increase of 3.1 percent over last year’s 5.7 million travelers. Just over 5 million Californians are expected to drive to their destinations, which is a 3.4 percent increase compared to 2015, while 617,000 will fly – a 1.6 percent jump. About 196,000 residents statewide will travel by other means, a slight increase of 1.1 percent.
Nationwide, 48.7 million travelers are expected this Thanksgiving weekend – a 1.9 percent year-over-year increase and also the highest number of U.S. Thanksgiving travelers since 2007.
More disposable income, higher wages and increased consumer confidence are fueling the increase in travelers, according to the Auto Club. Also, although current gas price averages are very similar to those at the same time a year ago, for most of 2016 they have been significantly lower than any year since the 2008-09 recession – providing consumers with more discretionary spending money.
“As with the Memorial Day and Independence Day holidays in 2016, we are seeing that travel has almost returned to the heights of popularity it achieved in the middle of the last decade,” said Auto Club spokesperson Jeffrey Spring.
The top five destinations for Southern California travelers, according to a survey of the Auto Club’s AAA Travel agents, are:
1) Las Vegas (also AAA’s No. 1 destination nationwide)
2) San Diego (AAA’s No. 3 destination nationwide)
3) Grand Canyon
4) San Francisco (AAA’s No. 2 Thanksgiving destination)
5) Santa Barbara
The Auto Club’s Thanksgiving forecast is based on economic forecasting and research by IHS Markit.