A topsy-turvy economy and high gas prices are not enough to deter Americans from traveling over the 2011 Thanksgiving weekend.
According to a new AAA survey, 42.5 million Americans will travel 50 miles or more from home during the Thanksgiving holiday. That's a four percent increase from the 40.9 million people who traveled one year ago.
The survey's upbeat findings mark the first significant increase in any holiday travel this year. Memorial Day was statistically flat, while July 4 and Labor Day travel experienced moderate decreases.
This year also marks the highest number of travelers since the recession kicked in. In 2007, over 50 million Americans traveled for Thanksgiving. The following year, that number dropped to just 37.8.
AAA notes that pent-up travel demand from Americans who've chosen not to travel during the past few years is driving the increase in numbers this Thanksgiving weekend.
AAA defines the holiday travel period from Wednesday, Nov. 23 to Sunday, Nov. 27.
Of the 42.5 million projected travelers, AAA estimates that 90 percent will use the nation's roadways, even though the average price of gasoline is $3.40 per gallon, 51 cents higher than last year.
Eight percent of travelers will fly during the Thanksgiving holiday weekend - a 1.8 percent increase from 2010. Even though more people are flying, airfares are an estimated 20 percent higher than in 2010.
Other modes of transportation (bus, train or boat) account for the remaining two percent of the total person-trips. Though just 900,000 people will use these modes, it's a nearly 15 percent increase over last year's numbers.
Hotels will meet the increased demand with higher rates. According to the survey, rates at AAA hotels are up 6-7 percent. Daily car rental rates, however, will average $37, an eleven percent decrease from one year ago.