Holiday travel volume flat in Wisconsin - Beloit Daily News: News

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Holiday travel volume flat in Wisconsin

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Posted: Monday, November 19, 2012 4:00 pm

Thanksgiving travel in Wisconsin will remain relatively flat compared to last year, according to a report done by AAA of Wisconsin.

About 874,000 Wisconsin residents are expected to hit the roadways during the Thanksgiving holiday, which is defined as the Wednesday before the holiday through the Sunday after.

Approximately 784,000 of those traveling will do so by car while 64,000 will go to their destinations by plane.

The flat numbers reflect the national numbers as AAA expects a less than 1 percent increase in Thanksgiving travelers. Nationally, about 43.6 million Americans are expected to travel 50 miles or more, which is a 0.7 percent increase from 2011.

Pam Moen, AAA assistant vice president of Public Affairs, said she wasn't surprised by the flat numbers despite higher travel rates from the summer holidays.

Fourth of July travel saw a 4 percent increase from 2011, but Moen said that increase was due to the holiday falling in the middle of the week, and more people decided to take vacation compared to year's past.

“In 2007, we saw over a million travel in Wisconsin, and we saw about 770,000 in 2008,” Moen said. “While we have made strong gains in 2010 we're still not back to pre-recession levels.”

The flat numbers reflect the “ups and downs” of the economy over the last year, Moen said.

“One day we will get good news and then the next day we'll get news that is not as favorable,” she said. “It's telling us that people recognize that the economic recovery still has a ways to go.”

Average spending on the Thanksgiving holiday will drop 10 percent to $498 per family compared to $554 in 2011. Average traveling distance also will see a decline, falling 16.7 percent to 588 miles compared to 706 miles last year.

Despite those numbers, Moen said gas prices aren't a big factor in travel numbers for Thanksgiving as they are for summer holidays.

Fuel costs have decreased about 40 cents from October in the state of Wisconsin. However, it's only two cents lower than last year, and won't have a significant impact on travel, Moen said.

Thanksgiving differs from summer holidays because it is a family-oriented holiday, and people are more willing to incur the costs of travel during this time as compared to the summer.

“Most people are not going to let gas prices keep them from celebrating this traditional holiday with their family,” Moen said.

While it's still too early for a solid prediction, Moen said, she doesn't expect Christmas travel to be significantly higher than in 2011.

“It's another one of those holidays that people tend to prioritize over others because of the tradition,” Moen said.

Year-end travel normally sees the highest rate of volume because people tend to save their vacation time for this time of year.

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