Business, Energy

AAA: Thanksgiving will see more travelers than 2021, but highest holiday gas prices on record

MORGANTOWN – With the pandemic on the wane, more people will be traveling for the Thanksgiving holiday than in 2021, according to AAA.

But they’ll be paying more to do it, according to AAA and the U.S. Energy Information Administration.

AAA said in a release that it predicts 54.6 million people will travel 50 miles or more from home this Thanksgiving: a 1.5% increase over 2021 and 98% of pre-pandemic volumes.

This year is projected to be the third busiest for Thanksgiving travel since AAA started tracking in 2000, it said.

AAA defines the Thanksgiving holiday travel period as the five-day period from Wednesday through Sunday.

“People are eager to get back to creating memories with their families and friends this Thanksgiving,” said Bevi Powell, senior vice president, AAA East Central. “The nearly pre-pandemic levels of travelers will result in heavy traffic congestion and busy airports. Motorists should strategically plan their journey, packing plenty of patience for the drive or flight.”

Most travelers – nearly 49 million people – are expected to travel by car, AAA said. While Thanksgiving road trips have slightly risen 0.4% from 2021, car travel remains 2.5% below 2019 levels.

AAA did not have any information specific to travel in West Virginia.

Filling up your car will cost sightly more than in 2021, AAA and the EIA said.

The national average for a gallon of regular gasoline dropped 11 cents in the past week to $3.66, AAA said. Monday’s statewide average was $3.55 – with prices in Monongalia, Preston and Marion counties all higher than the state average, at $3.73, $3.74 and $3.79 respectively. Down at the state capital, Kanawha’s price was $3.41.

This week’s overall average for northern West Virginia is $3.61, compared to $3.31 last year.

The national average spiked significantly from 2020 to 2021, the EIA reported: from $2.20 to $3.50 – a 59% increase.

The national average was $1.07 in 1993; $1.56 in 2000; $2.91 in 2010; it peaked at $3.52 in 2012 then fell more or less steadily until the 2020 low of $2.20.

EIA said gas demand fell from 9.01 million to 8.74 million barrels per day last week. Meanwhile, total domestic gasoline stocks rose by nearly 2.2 million barrels to 207.9 million barrel. Increasing supply and fewer drivers fueling up have pushed pump prices lower.

AAA reported prices at the larger cities across the state on Monday: $3.72, Bridgeport; $3.75, Clarksburg; $3.37, Huntington; $3.54, Martinsburg; $3.72, Morgantown; $3.43, Parkersburg; $3.69, Weirton; $3.62, Wheeling.

For those traveling by other means, AAA reported that air travel is up nearly 8% over 2021, with 4.5 million Americans flying to their Thanksgiving destinations this year. That’s an increase of more than 330,000 travelers and nearly 99% of the 2019 volume.

Americans are also ramping up travel by other modes of transportation, AAA said. More than 1.4 million travelers are going out of town for Thanksgiving by bus, train, or cruise ship. That’s an increase of 23% from 2021 and 96% of the 2019 volume.