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Over the river and through the woods…Thanksgiving travel

By: 22 November 2010 One Comment

There seems to be two “t words” associated with Thanksgiving that never fail to be true: turkey and travel.

We at First Arkansas News can’t speak to what’s on your platter, but we can tell you there’s lots of traveling going on.

Mike Right, spokesman for AAA in St. Louis, Mo., shared his organization’s expectations for travel this holiday. Travelers visiting relatives for the Thanksgiving holiday will have to deal with higher fuel prices this year—the average price for a gallon of regular unleaded on Nov. 22 was $2.70, up 7.39 percent from a year ago. But (Right) said his organization predicts that more people will take to the road this year than last.

Right said AAA is predicting a noticeable increase in travel this year—42.2 million travelers are expected to take to the road this year and that’s an 11.4 percent increase over Thanksgiving 2009.

Right said the vast majority of travelers—40 million of them—will travel by motor vehicle while 1.62 million will fly. The reason for the increase has a lot to do with economics, he said.

People feel a little bit better about the economy this year and consumer confidence is on the rise. Also, a lot of people put off traveling last year, thus creating a pent-up desire to see relatives this season.

“Thanksgiving is a traditional holiday,” Right said. “I don’t think you can go two years without seeing grandma.”

Chardonnay Mullin grew up in Arkansas but moved earlier this year to live in Norman, Okla., with her boyfriend. The couple will be traveling back and forth between her family in the Natural State and his family in Tulsa.

“This is my first time to travel to see my family for a holiday, and it’s definitely an experience. I cannot wait until Thanksgiving,” she said. “Growing up in Fayetteville, my family always traveled during the holidays because my dad is from Kansas City and my mom is from eastern Tennessee. As an adult, I never thought I would continue that tradition, but now it’s happening!

“I can say that I respect my family that much more, because during this stressful time of year, it is very hard to throw a road trip into the mix,” Mullin continued. “Trying to split time into equal parts on one day is a challenge, but at the same time, it makes one appreciate time with loved ones that much more.”

The idea of “splitting time” will be an understatement for Mullin. Here’s her travel itinerary:

“Traveling back to Fayetteville is going to be tricky. My boyfriend is from Tulsa. So, we will be traveling to Tulsa where I will drop him off and then I will go on to Fayetteville. We both will spend Nov. 23 with our families and then Thanksgiving morning, I will travel back to Tulsa to celebrate with his family,” she explained. “Afterwards, we will trek back to Fayetteville to spend the evening with my family. Then, we will leave Saturday and travel to Tulsa, then head back to Norman. This is our first year doing this and believe it or not was far less complicated than any other plan we came up with.”

Part of the reason for such a chaotic schedule was so the couple could potentially save money by taking one car instead of two.

Here’s a breakdown of prices, according to the AAA.

While most the travel is on the highways, don’t forget the skies are also full of holiday travelers. Scott Van Langingham, executive director and CEO of the Northwest Arkansas Regional Airport (XNA) in Highfill, said the change over from mostly business travel to leisure travelers is already happening.

“By Wednesday it will be all leisure,” he said.

Based on advance ticket sales, Van Langingham said that this should be a strong travel weekend.

This year’s travelers will be met by new Transportation Security Administration procedures that require more time for passengers to be checked in before their flight.

“Passengers really need to be at the airport no later than an hour before their flight leaves,” Van Langingham said.

Travelers should have relatively safe weather conditions, as no significant frozen precipitation is forecast for the state. Meteorologist Sean Clarke with the National Weather Service said that there are rain chances off and on through mid week but the temperatures will stay warm. That is, until Thursday. A cold front will come in the area making Thursday and Friday frigid throughout much of Arkansas. Even if there is a small amount of frozen precipitation in the upper elevations in the north part of the state, the ground will still be warm enough that nothing should stick on the roads, he said.

FAN Editor Ethan Nobles contributed to this report

About: Jamie Smith:
Experienced reporter who is now an entrepreneur. Jamie's Notebook offers writing services including press releases, corporate blogging and feature writing.

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