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Cheap gas fuels Thanksgiving travel surge
Millions expected to hit the roads or fly as travel prices fall
new deh thanksgiving travel pic
The Thanksgiving weekend is the traditional beginning of the holiday season. More area residents are expected to travel this Thanksgiving, thanks to low gas prices and an improving economy. - photo by DALE HOGG Great Bend Tribune

As area residents venture out on to the highways this Thanksgiving, they will pay the lowest price for fuel in four years. Today’s average price of gas in Kansas is $2.72 per gallon, which is about 25 cents lower than the average price for Thanksgiving a year ago ($2.97 per gallon).
The highest prices in the state were seen at Syracuse with $3.19, $3.09 at Hugoton, $3.05 at Hoxie, and $2.99 at Liberal and Garden City.
The lowest prices were found at Coffeyville with $2.35, Newton with $2.43 and Salina with $2.46.
Locally, Great Bend prices were $2.87. In the Golden Belt, the prices were $2.82 at Larned, $2.69 at Lyons, $2.58 at Russell, $2.75 at Hays, $2.65 at Hutchinson and $2.59 at Wichita.

Encouraged by the lowest gas prices in recent memory and a brighter economic outlook, the number of those going over the river and through the woods this Thanksgiving weekend will be the highest in several years.
AAA Travel projects nearly Four Million travelers from the West North Central Region (includes Kansas, Missouri, Nebraska, Iowa, Minnesota, and North and South Dakota) over the Thanksgiving, an increase of 4.7 percent and the highest volume of travel since 2007. This region will experience the largest percent of its population traveling than any other region, nearly 19 percent (18.8 percent).
That compares to the national average of 14.5 percent.
“The forecast increase is attributed to an improving economy, rising disposable income and continued optimism from the region’s consumers,” said James Hanni, AAA Kansas spokesman. The Thanksgiving holiday travel period is defined as Wednesday, Nov, 26 through Sunday, Nov. 30.
The average distance traveled this Thanksgiving will be 549 miles roundtrip and Americans will spend an average of $573 during the holiday weekend.
The aaverage price of gas in Kansas is $2.72 per gallon, which is about 25 cents lower than the average price for Thanksgiving a year ago ($2.97 per gallon).
While more than 89 percent of travelers (41.3 million) will travel by automobile, a 4.3 percent increase from 39.6 million last year, 91 percent of West North Central region travelers will take a road trip. That is a 4.9 percent increase for regional auto travel over Thanksgiving.
Air travel for Thanksgiving in the region is also expected to be at the highest level since 2007, with about 185,000 West North Central travelers taking to the skies, an increase of 2.5 percent.
Travelers will encounter virtually no change in airfares, one percent higher, while mid-range hotels are up eight percent and car rentals cost 10 percent more.
As for motorists, among those traveling, more than 16 percent say that savings from lower gas prices is leading them to alter their plans. For some that may mean stretching the Thanksgiving holiday and/or, avoiding traffic.
“The Thanksgiving holiday is such a deeply-rooted part of who we are that families will always do what it takes to bring everybody together regardless of fuel prices,” said Patrick DeHaan, senior petroleum analyst for GasBuddy. “But the mood we’re getting from our survey results suggests that notably lower gas prices have brought a sense of relief, perhaps some optimism, and also a sense of caution.”
Of more than 81,000 Americans surveyed by GasBuddy this month, 71 percent said they expect to spend less on Thanksgiving this year.
According to GasBuddy, economists say most of us have saved at least $500 since June. Among consumers who use the GasBuddy app, 43 percent say they save from 6 to 9 cents per gallon on every purchase; 26 percent say they save from 10 to 14 cents; and 10 percent say they save from 15 to 30 cents. From Thanksgiving through the following Sunday, motorists collectively will save over $650 million on gasoline versus what they spent last Thanksgiving- or over $160 million a day.
Other GasBuddy Thanksgiving Survey findings:
• 36 percent say their Thanksgiving travel begins on Thanksgiving Day. 30 percent said it starts the day before; 18 percent say they’re hitting the road 2 to 3 days before.
• 25 percent say they’ll fight the tryptophan malaise and drive home later on Thanksgiving Day; but the majority, 42 percent say they’ll wait 2 to 3 days and drive home Saturday or Sunday. 22 percent expect to hit the road with a fresh start the next morning.
• 95 percent of respondents have a smart phone. 52 percent say they use 2 to 3 travel apps for their Thanksgiving travels; 34 percent will actively use 4 or more apps.
So, the AAA reports, most of travelers’ budgets go toward transportation, food and shopping.
U.S. Travelers are expected to spend an average of $573 over the course of their holiday travels. However for this region, the average spending is just $342, due to proportionally more auto travel in the region versus others. Despite lower average gas prices, travelers are allocating 31 percent of their budgets to fuel transportation and although the average roundtrip distance for a trip is 440 miles in our region, most (33 percent) range between 150-250 miles.