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Region to see 2nd highest Thanksgiving travel since 2007
With gas prices their lowest in a decade, 91 percent take to the road; 18 percent of population
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 National average projected to hit $1.99 on Thanksgiving; First Time Since 2009

GAITHERSBURG, Md. – Americans hitting the road for Thanksgiving will certainly have something to be extra thankful for: The cheapest gasoline prices since March 2009. The low prices are showing up just in time for millions of motorists that are heading out, saving them $1.5 billion over the five days that GasBuddy’s recent survey found most motorists will be travelling.

GasBuddy projects that by Thanksgiving Day the national average will be $1.99 per gallon, nearly 80 cents per gallon cheaper than last year and $1.29 per gallon cheaper than 2013. As prices at the pump have plunged, the number of states seeing average prices under $2 per gallon has more than tripled in the last two weeks, rising to 19 states, with nearly 60 percent of all U.S. gas stations now selling below $2 per gallon.

As of Wednesday, the Kansas average was $1.88 with the national figure being $2.05. The low in state was in Hutchinson at $1.52 and the high was $2.99 in Coldwater.

Locally, the price hovered at $1.97 in Great Bend. Around the area, the prices were $1.74 at Ellsworth, $1.99 at Larned, $1.89 at Lyons and $1.95 at Russell. 

Lower gas prices could be a reason why more people will be spending more time on the road this holiday weekend. According to GasBuddy’s 2015 Thanksgiving Travel Survey (with more than 100,000 surveyed nationwide), 25% of travelers say their travel will begin on Thanksgiving Day; while nearly 30% say travel begins the Wednesday before Thanksgiving and another 23% say they’ll hit the road 2 to 3 days ahead. That’s an 11% decrease in the number of people who say they’re heading out on Thanksgiving Day. In 2014, 36% said they’d travel on Thanksgiving Day; 30% said they’d travel the day before; and only 18% said they’d hit the road 2 to 3 days earlier.

“With gas prices plunging under $2 just in time for Thanksgiving Day, it’s a perfect reminder – some folks automatically expect gas prices to rise in advance of a major travel holiday, that’s become a popular misconception and this holiday exemplifies the point,” said Patrick DeHann, a senior petroleum analyst with GasBuddy. “November gas prices have slid significantly lower and holiday travelers will certainly be the beneficiaries.” 

This is a trend he expect will continue through the end of 2015. “So if you like the prices you see on Thanksgiving, you’ll be delighted when Christmas arrives.”

 According to AAA nearly 3.8 million in the West North Central Region of the U.S., of which Kansas is a part, will journey more than 50 miles from home this Thanksgiving holiday, the second highest travel volume for the region since 2007. 

Besides Kansas, the West North Central Region includes the Dakotas, Nebraska, Iowa, Missouri and Minnesota, and has the highest percent of population traveling of any region in the U.S., at nearly 18 percent. The West North Central Region also has one of the highest percentage of total travel occurring by auto, with nearly 91 percent of Thanksgiving travel by this mode. 

About five percent of all travel again will be by air. Lowest round trip air fares are down about ten percent from a year ago, according to AAA’s Leisure Travel Index of fares and rates on travel during Thanksgiving week, while car rental rates are up 8 percent and three and two-diamond hotel rates are up one and four percent, respectively. 

Kansans are getting an early holiday gift at the pump.

The average price of gas in Kansas is $1.88, which is 80 cents less than last year and the lowest Thanksgiving gas price since 2008. The average annual price of regular unleaded in Kansas for the entire year of 2014 was $3.19. 

So far in 2015, the average for the year is $2.30, 89 cents less, meaning Kansas motorists, on average, have paid 28 percent less for regular unleaded gasoline this year than they did last year. Kansas now ranks as the 15th lowest among all the state averages for regular unleaded, trailing only neighboring states Missouri (fourth lowest) and Oklahoma (sixth lowest). 

Since October 10, the Kansas average has fallen 19 percent (45 cents), and 41 of the past 45 days. Global oversupply at a time of weak seasonal demand and a weakened Chinese economy are leading reasons for continuing price decline.

By The Numbers:

Gas Prices – 2015, 2014 and the increase/decrease:

National Average – $2.06, $2.81 and -.75 or -27 percent

Kansas Average – $1.90, $2.69 and -.78 or -29 percent

AAA recommends that drivers have vehicles checked before hitting the road. Last year during the five-day Thanksgiving holiday period that began Wednesday Nov. 26, AAA’s Roadside Rescue Team came to the aid of nearly 1,000 stranded drivers in Kansas. Top three calls:

• Dead battery: 20 percent

• Locked out of vehicle: 19 percent

• Tire issues: 14 percent

AAA often sees an increase in lock-out calls when people are preparing to travel, as well as battery, tire and other maintenance issues, so check your tire pressure and tread, clean headlights, change the oil and make sure fluids are filled to the appropriate level. To find an approved auto repair shop near you, visit 

For holiday travel trends, AAA offices in Wichita, Topeka, Manhattan and Lawrence report AAA members are planning to drive greater distances on auto trips over the holidays than in past years, clearly due to lower gas prices. Staff in the AAA Kansas offices also report the number one holiday destination for which AAA members are planning trips, other than to visit friends and family, is to see the holiday lights and shows at Branson, Mo.