Christian Dorsey and his family have traveled to the Philadelphia area every Thanksgiving holiday for about 10 years.
Dorsey, who represents Arlington County, Virginia, on the Metro’s board of directors, prepares himself for the road trip north to ensure he eats dinner as soon as he arrives.
“In order to get there at 4 o’clock for dinner, I leave the house at about 12:20 [p.m.],” he said. “I avoid all that traffic and I pretty much get there … say ‘Hello.’ Hugs. Kisses. What’s up. Pictures. Let’s sit down and eat. It’s a science, years of practice.”
Dorsey will be among the 1.2 million Washington area residents driving, flying or on a train during the Thanksgiving holiday. AAA Mid-Atlantic says it’s the highest number of people traveling at least 50 miles in nearly a decade.
“With a sentimental yearning for home and the past, fully one-fifth of the populace in the Greater Washington region plans to travel this Thanksgiving,” said AAA spokesman John B. Townsend II. “Think about the magnitude of it all, 20 percent, or two out of 10 residents, will make a getaway for a get-together with their loved ones and cherished friends during one of the most family-oriented holidays of the year. This constitutes the most Thanksgiving travelers since 2007.”
The agency estimates this year’s travelers will represent a nearly 6 percent increase from last year’s 1.1 million total.
One reason stems from the nationwide average of gas prices at $2.17 per gallon, the second cheapest since 2008 when the price stood at $1.85.
Although gas prices have made incremental increases, the agency says drivers have saved more than $28 million this year.
Nationwide, about 48 million people expect to travel for the Thanksgiving holiday, which AAA defines as between Nov. 23-27.
About 43 million, or 89 percent, plan to drive. At least one million of those are D.C.-area commuters who will either drive along highways such as Interstate 95, or ride in taxi cabs to airports or train stations.
Even though the agency projects airline prices to rise by 21 percent during the holidays, 88,500 residents still plan to fly, a 7 percent increase from last year. Slightly more than 28,000, or a 2 percent increase, will board a bus or train.
“One million more Americans than last year will carve out time to visit with friends and family this Thanksgiving,” said AAA CEO and President Marshall Downey. “Most will travel on the tried-and-true holiday road trip, thanks to gas prices that are holding at close to $2 per gallon. Others will fly, take the bus or set off on a cruise to celebrate with their loved ones.”
Meanwhile, Greyhound anticipates 540,000 customers to use its bus fleet this holiday season. Tickets can be purchased at www.greyhound.com, or by calling 1-800-231-2222.
For those who plan to commute by train during the holidays, Amtrak offered some travel advice:
- Book early on www.amtrak.com, or call 1-800-USA-RAIL;
- Arrive early at stations prior to departure;
- Make sure to have valid photo ID; and
- Report any suspicious items, or unattended items to an Amtrak employee.
Driving still remains the top choice for travelers, but AAA estimates it will need to rescue 370,000 motorists due to a flat tire, dead battery and locking keys in the vehicle.
Those in need can download the AAA app to a mobile phone, or call 1-800-AAA-HELP.
As for Dorsey, driving to visit family in the Philadelphia region every Thanksgiving doesn’t bother him — it saves his family from having to travel at Christmas.
“Even though my wife and I met here in the D.C. area, we both have roots in the Philadelphia area,” he said. “We do several Thanksgivings, so my waistline is hurting after that. It’s the perfect time because … I want [my children] to wake up and have Christmas at home. Thanksgiving is a good time [when] you can hit the road and if you time it right, traffic’s easy. It’s all good.”