AAA: 2021 Thanksgiving travel expected to return to pre-pandemic levels despite high gas prices

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(WJHL) — AAA forecasted a rebound in 2021 holiday travel this upcoming season, predicting an increase by 13% in travel across the country, according to a release from The Auto Club Group on Tuesday.

In Tennessee, AAA reported that travel figures loom just 3% behind pre-pandemic levels, with a predicted 1.2 million Tennesseans traveling for Thanksgiving — a projected increase of 130,000 compared to last year.

“It’s beginning to look more like a normal holiday travel season, compared to what we saw last year,” said Debbie Haas, the Vice President of Travel for AAA. “Now that U.S. borders are open, vaccinations are readily available and new health and safety guidelines are in place, travel is once again on the list for Americans who are ready to reunite with their loved ones for the holiday.”

AAA noted that these travel numbers could fluctuate as Thanksgiving approaches, especially with possible increases in COVID-19 cases and the widespread availability of vaccines.

Gas prices, though, are likely to remain elevated throughout the holiday season, AAA added, with the average price per gallon at $3.15 in Tennessee on Monday, Nov. 8.

The agency said Thanksgiving gas prices haven’t been that high since 2013.

“After such an unusual holiday travel year in 2020, it appears that higher gas prices will not be enough to deter Tennesseans from returning to the road for the holidays,” said AAA spokesperson Megan Cooper. “Unfortunately, it appears these high gas prices will hang around through the holidays. So it’s likely that travelers will budget more for gasoline and less on things like shopping, lodging and dining out.”

As of Tuesday, Nov. 9, Washington County, Tennessee, and Johnson County have the highest gas prices in the Northeast Tennessee Tri-Cities region, at $3.172 and $3.259 per gallon respectively.

Across the state line in Southwest Virginia, Buchanan County has the highest average gas prices at $3.352 per gallon.

With the increased travel come calls for help; AAA expects to respond to over 400,000 calls over the Thanksgiving holiday weekend. The most common calls are for the following:

  • Dead batteries
  • Flat tires
  • Lockouts

In regard to air travel, AAA said that airfare rates are down by 27.3% from 2020, with Monday and Thursday generally offering the best deals. Those looking for a steal are advised to hold off on booking tickets until about two weeks before Thanksgiving.

AAA advised Thanksgiving travelers to consult with the CDC’s recommendations for holiday gatherings and travel before finalizing holiday plans.

For daily gas price updates, CLICK HERE.

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