WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. -- AAA Carolinas expects more North Carolinians to drive this Thanksgiving weekend than a year ago.
AAA Carolinas, an affiliate of the American Automobile Association, said that about 1.17 million people in the state should drive to their destination over the holiday from Nov. 27 to Dec. 1. That’s about 36,000 more people over Thanksgiving weekend 2012.
Motorists will account for 90 percent of the overall 1.29 million North Carolinians who are expected to travel 50 miles or more from home during the Thanksgiving holiday period, the AAA affiliate said.
"As a traditional family holiday, Thanksgiving is the busiest travel weekend of the year," said David E. Parsons, president and chief executive of AAA Carolinas. "Drivers should expect heavy congestion and plan on taking more time to reach their destination."
Gas prices in most North Carolina cities are still lower than they were a year ago.
In Winston-Salem, a gallon of regular, unleaded gas averaged $3.20 on Thursday compared with $3.27 a year ago. In Greensboro, the average price of gas was $3.22 Thursday, down 5 cents from the same period a year ago.
Statewide, the average price of gas was $3.23 Thursday, down 23 cents from Labor Day on Sept. 2 and down 8 cents from a year ago.
The highest average price in North Carolina is in Asheville at $3.30 a gallon of unleaded. The least expensive average price is in Fayetteville at $3.18.
"This morning when I went to work, it was $2.98 at the Wilco Hess in Pilot Mountain," said David Coins of Pilot Mountain. "I come home from work it's $3.18"
Bordering states have much cheaper gas — South Carolina ($3.07), Virginia ($3.13), Tennessee ($3.08) and Georgia ($3.22) – in part because of differences in state fuel taxes.
AAA Carolinas said that airfares are down 1 percent from last year’s Thanksgiving holiday season, but it believes fewer people will be flying this year.
About 90,000, or 7 percent, of all travelers are expected to go by air this Thanksgiving. An estimated 31,000, or 3 percent, will use other modes of transportation, such as train, boat or bus.
Priceline.com reported that the average round-trip Thanksgiving airfare is about $407, based on tickets booked by travelers on its website.
Travelers looking for the cheapest roundtrip airfare might consider flying today, next Thursday on Thanksgiving Day and next Friday.
The most expensive day to fly is Dec. 1, when the average domestic fare is about $490. Other expensive travel days are Nov. 27 and Dec. 2, Priceline.com said.
By Fran Daniel/Winston-Salem Journal