Thanksgiving travel numbers continue to grow, but not in D.C. area

WASHINGTON — For the seventh year in a row, the number of Americans planning to travel for Thanksgiving has risen nationally, but this year fewer D.C.-area residents are hitting the roads, according to AAA Travel.

Nationally, 46.9 million people will travel 50 miles or more from home — a 0.6 percent increase over 2014. The total number of travelers is most since 2007.

Yet, despite extremely low gas prices and an unemployment rate that continues to decline, local Thanksgiving travel numbers will remain virtually unchanged over last year.

According to AAA Mid-Atlantic, 1, 115, 300 Washington-area residents will travel this Thanksgiving, down a nominal 0.2 percent from 1,157,100 in 2014.

“The family car remains the preferred mode of travel for Thanksgiving,” says AAA Mid-Atlantic’s John Townsend, noting more than 90 percent of all travel is by car.

The flat number of locals traveling is especially curious, since Washington area residents are more prone to venture 50 miles or more from home at Thanksgiving, because of the high number of federal employees.

“Federal workers have to schedule their earned ‘use it or lose it’ annual leave (if it exceeds 240 hours) by Nov. 28, 2015, and must take it before the leave year ends on Jan. 9, 2016,” according to the AAA study.

Locally, travel planners expect the biggest travel day of the holiday period will be the Tuesday before Thanksgiving, Nov. 24, with the heaviest traffic between 5 p.m. and 6 p.m., according to AAA, citing research by the Transportation Planning Board.

Nationally, the heaviest travel day is the Sunday after Thanksgiving, at dinner time.

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