AAA East Central, which includes Pennsylvania, forecasts a travel increase of 4 percent nationally for the Thanksgiving travel period, compared to the same time last year. This is the first time this year that travel around a major holiday has increased.
"Memorial Day was statistically flat, while Independence Day and Labor Day saw decreases, so we feel there is some pent up demand resulting from this year and also the last couple of years," said Bevi Powell, a spokeswoman for AAA East Central.
For the mid-Atlantic region, which includes Pittsburgh, travel is expected to increase about 3.5 percent compared to last year. Much of that travel will be done by car, despite a slight rise in gas prices.
"Gas prices are up about 50 cents year over year, but down significantly from the $4 a gallon we were experiencing earlier this summer," said Powell.
Still, as the nation continues to grapple with economic uncertainty, families are traveling much less than they were pre-recession. 2008 saw a decade low in the number of travelers, with only about 37.8 million Americans taking a trip. This year's expected 42.5 million travelers is a positive sign, but, Powell said, a sign that pre-recession travel numbers will take time to reach.
Since many of those traveling this week will be doing so by car, AAA is suggesting that people tune into their radios to keep up to date with traffic conditions, and make sure alternate routes are mapped out, in the event of traffic snarls.
The Thanksgiving holiday travel period is Wednesday, November 23 to Sunday, November 27, and signals the start of the longer holiday travel period that stretches to the New Year.