By allowing ads to appear on this site, you support the local businesses who, in turn, support great journalism.
Thanksgiving gas prices could be highest in 5 years
Surveys find increased travel for the holiday weekend
thanksgiving travel
Shown is I-135 in Kansas. Roads like this will see a lot of Thanksgiving travelers, even though gas prices could be higher than in years past.

Motorists heading over the river and though the woods this Thanksgiving can expect to see gasoline prices the highest they’ve been since 2014, the gas-tracking website GasBuddy predicts. But, while it may lead to some complaints — 30% of Americans saying high prices are impacting their plans — it won’t slow them down much, with a 7% rise in drivers on the road for versus last year.  

The national average gas price this Thanksgiving is projected to be $2.56 per gallon, a penny higher than last year. The national average has seen a smaller decline since October than usual, part of the reason for the higher prices this Thanksgiving versus last year. 

While prices have averaged a 10-cent decline from October to mid-November over the last decade, this year has seen a decline of just 5 cents over the same time frame.  

The Kansas average as of Friday was $2.33. The state low was at Wichita with $2.09 while the high was $2.74 at Liberal

In central Kansas, the prices were $2.21 to $2,39 in Great Bend, $2.34 at Stafford, $2.32 at LaCrosse and $2.28 at Lyons. 

“Change is hard, but when it comes to Thanksgiving, many things this year won’t be changing,” said Patrick DeHaan, head of petroleum analysis at GasBuddy. “First, expect the mediocre Detroit Lions and their fans, including me, to suffer for a third straight Thanksgiving Day.”

Second, expect the national average price of gasoline to be in the $2.50s for the third straight Thanksgiving. And third, expect average gas prices to drop between now and Christmas, giving motorists something extra to be thankful for. 

According to GasBuddy’s Annual Holiday Travel Survey, 30% of participants said high gas prices were impacting their travel plans, a 2% decrease from last year. 2019 is expected to see a 7% increase in travelers on the road for Thanksgiving compared to 2018, with more than half of drivers having 1-2 passengers in the car with them. Nearly one fifth of drivers expect to spend 4-6 hours in the car.  

Getting ahead of the holiday expenses, more than two-thirds of consumers will be using a loyalty or cash back program to save money or earn rewards when they fill-up for their Thanksgiving trip. 

The top considerations when choosing which station to stop at are location, price of gas and the brand of gas. A shift in travel sentiment compared to last year: drivers are less concerned about the brand of fuel and putting more emphasis on location and price.

A lot of traffic

More than 55 million travelers are making plans to kick off the holiday season with a trip of 50 miles or more away from home this Thanksgiving. This will be the second-highest Thanksgiving travel volume since AAA began tracking in 2000, trailing only the record set in 2005. Overall, an additional 1.6 million more people will travel compared with last year. The vast majority of holiday travelers will drive to their destinations and, INRIX, a global transportation analytics company, expects Wednesday afternoon to be the worst travel period nationally, with trips taking as much at four times longer than normal in major metros.

The West North Central Region (in which Kansas is included, along with Iowa, Minnesota, Missouri, North Dakota, Nebraska and South Dakota) will see more than 4.5 million people taking Thanksgiving weekend trips of 50 miles or longer, a 2.7% increase over 2018 and the largest number of travelers since 2005, according to AAA Kansas. Nearly 4.1 million of those travelers, or 91%, will be traveling by car. Travel by air and other forms of transport (cruises, bus and trains) also is projected to increase in our region for the 2019 Thanksgiving travel period.

“Millions of thankful Americans are starting the holiday season off right with a Thanksgiving getaway,” said Paula Twidale, vice president, AAA Travel. “Strong economic fundamentals are motivating Americans to venture out this holiday in near-record numbers. Consumer spending remains strong, thanks to increasing wages, disposable income and household wealth, and travel remains one of their top priorities for the holiday season.”

By the numbers: 2019 Thanksgiving travel forecast

• Automobiles: 49.3 million travelers will hit the road this Thanksgiving, the most since 2005 and 2.8% more than last year.

• Planes: With 4.6% growth, air travel will see the biggest increase in travel volume during the Thanksgiving holiday, with 4.45 million Americans expected to fly.

• Trains, Buses and Cruise Ships: Travel by other modes will reach 1.49 million, a slight increase of 1.4% from 2018.

Nothing worse than Wednesday: Times NOT to be on the road

For the 49.3 million Americans traveling by automobile, INRIX, in collaboration with AAA, predicts major delays throughout the week, peaking Wednesday with trips taking as much four times longer as commuters mix with travelers.

 “With record levels of travelers, and persistent population growth in the country’s major metropolitan areas, drivers must prepare for major delays,” said Trevor Reed, transportation analyst at INRIX. “Although travel times will peak on Wednesday afternoon nationally, travelers should expect much heavier than normal congestion throughout the week.”

GasBuddy offers several money-saving tips for motorists on the road this holiday season: 

• The Day of the Week Matters. ​GasBuddy has analyzed gas price data year-over-year and found that Monday offers the lowest average gas price in 30 states, making it the best day to fill-up. The day with the most expensive average gas prices: Friday.

• Don’t Drive Like a Maniac. ​Aggressive driving habits like speeding, rapid acceleration and braking as they can cost drivers up to an extra $477 per year in fuel consumption.