Cheaper air fares and lower gasoline prices this Thanksgiving holiday are expected to send more people to grandma’s house with some extra spending money.
Travelers are seeing savings on airfare and at the pumps as they make final travel arrangements.
Air travel costs, which have dropped for the second year in a row, are down 11 percent from last year, according to AAA.
Gas prices, which have been falling in recent weeks, are expected to remain flat over the next several days – good news for the 39 million Americans planning to hit the highways this holiday.
AAA projects that 43.6 million Americans will travel at least 50 miles from home this holiday season. Although minimal, the number is nearly 1 percent higher than it was in 2011.
“Although leisure travel is forecast to make just modest gains from last year, it’s still a positive sign to see growth for the fourth year in a row,” said Brent Hubele, the vice president of AAA Travel.
Since 2008, overall holiday travel has increased 15 percent.
Police will also be on the road during the holiday period, which generally runs from Wednesday to Sunday, in an effort to keep travelers safe. Drivers have been asked to slow down, have a designated driver if necessary and refrain from talking on cell phones and texting while driving.
“Historically, there are more than 3,000 accidents on Georgia roads during the Thanksgiving holiday period,” said Georgia Transportation Commissioner Keith Golden. “On average, more than a dozen people die and a thousand more are injured. This is supposed to be a holiday for grateful contemplation and festive family gathering, not tragedy. Please be very careful and do not drive distracted or while impaired.”
The Georgia Department of Transportation will halt all construction-related lane closures on interstates and major state routes from noon Wednesday to 9 p.m. Sunday.
Meteorologist Steve Naglic, of the National Weather Service in West Columbia, S.C., said weather is expected to be good for Augusta-area travelers.
“Thursday actually looks very nice in our area,” Naglic said.
Wednesay through Friday are expected to see highs in the mid- to upper-60s and lows in the low-40s. A few clouds are expected Wednesday but are not expected to bring any troublesome weather.
Cities to the north might not be as lucky as a nor’easter forms and is expected to hover along the East Coast during Thanksgiving, according to Accuweather.com. Major cities that could be affected include New York, Philadelphia, Boston and Washington, D.C.
The storm could result in heavy rainfall or snow in some areas.
The pleasant weather locally is another plus for Black Friday shoppers, who are expected to be out in full force starting Thursday evening.
According to AAA, about 40 percent of shoppers anticipate spending more money this holiday season than last year. However, shoppers this year are more serious about bargain hunting, with most planning to hit sales and bargain hunt online.
“In this uncertain economic environment, it’s encouraging to see that more people intend to spend more money on gifts,” said Belinda Davrowski, the managing director of AAA Partnership Development. “But people are looking for sales and a way to stretch their dollar, and all it takes it a little bit of research and knowing what means of savings are already at your fingertips.”