Millions of Americans will drive their cars to visit family and friends over the Thanksgiving holiday, even though gasoline is above $3.00 per gallon, travel and leisure group AAA said Thursday.
About 38.7 million Americans, 1.5 percent more than last year, will travel 50 miles or more from home this holiday, AAA estimated, based on a national Web survey of 2,200 adults.
"Thanksgiving is traditionally a time for family gatherings, and higher gas will not discourage Americans from reconnecting with their loved ones," Robert L. Darbelnet, president and chief executive of AAA, said in a release.
Some 31.2 million vacationers will travel by car, up 1.3 percent from last year, AAA said. Another 4.7 million will go by air, up 2.2 percent. The rest will take trains, buses or other modes of transportation.
Southeasterners will make up the largest portion of those going by car, with 9 million people expected to take to the roads, according to AAA.
Average U.S. retail gasoline prices are already closing in on the record $3.22 posted last May, with the national average at $3.11 on Thursday, about 90 cents higher than what the motor fuel was fetching last year, according to AAA's daily survey.
"This is the first time that we have seen gas prices tipping over $3.00 a gallon in November," said AAA's Darbelnet.
"A year ago, prices were in the range of $2.20 per gallon, so this year travelers are really feeling the pinch."
Gasoline prices usually dip in the fall as demand tapers off at the end of the summer driving season. But this year, gasoline prices began climbing again shortly after Labor Day as they tracked a steep spike in crude oil to nearly $100 per barrel.
Despite near-record prices at the pump, U.S. travelers will get a break on air fare as well as hotel and car rental prices, which have remained steady or fallen, AAA pointed out.
Still, this time around, most Americans plan to drive and then stay with family and friends over Thanksgiving, just like in years past.