MARIETTA - For the fourth year in a row an increase is expected in the number of people who will be traveling over the Thanksgiving holiday.
"We've seen a slight increase in travelers every holiday so far this year," said Ruth Nagy, director of travel operations for AAA's East Central district,which covers Marietta and vicinity.
The association is estimating 43.6 million Americans will travel at least 50 miles from home over the Thanksgiving holiday weekend.
That's a 0.7 percent increase above the 43.3 million holiday travelers in 2011.
"Part of the increase may be due to some pent-up demand because many people decided not to travel in some previous years," Nagy said. "But Americans also don't like to give up their traveling on holidays and weekends."
Jan Heron from Oberlin, Ohio, was headed south for the holiday and stopped at the West Virginia Welcome Center in Williamstown.
* 43.6 million people will travel over the holiday period through Sunday.
* 39.1 million, or 90 percent of travelers will be driving to their destinations.
* A drop in the national average price of gasoline to between $3.25 and $3.40 a gallon is expected by the holiday.
* Last year's national average fuel price was $3.32 - the most expensive ever on Thanksgiving.
Source: AAA holiday travel forecast at aaa.com
"We decided to take a trip to Myrtle Beach this Thanksgiving," she said. "It's unusual for us to travel over the holiday, but gas prices have been a little lower, so we're going away for about a week."
Although slight, the increase in travel is welcome news after Thanksgiving travel dropped off by 25 percent in 2008, according to AAA.
The association reports 39.1 million of this holiday's travelers will be driving cars to their destinations.
"Air travel is expected to decline to 3.14 million travelers from 3.2 million in 2011," Nagy said.
For those hitting the road, fuel prices will likely be close to the same as last Thanksgiving, she said.
"The current national average is between $3.25 and $3.40 per gallon," Nagy said. "Last year the price averaged around $3.32 per gallon."
Rebecca Stille, of Lower Salem, said she'd heard gasoline prices would be going down but isn't planning to go any farther than Marietta for the holiday.
"Most of my family lives within 10 to 15 miles of us," she said. "We're pretty lucky."
Bill Anderson, of Marietta, said gasoline prices would be a concern for him but he'll be working on Thanksgiving Day anyway.
"If it turns out that I travel at all, it will be to Columbus where my family is from," he said.
Nagy said those traveling the highways may want to keep a couple of things in mind this year.
"Wednesday will be one of the busiest travel days this year, as will Sunday following Thanksgiving Day," Nagy said. "So people might want to adjust their travel plans accordingly."
She noted many people now rely on GPS (global positioning satellite) units to get them to their destinations.
"GPS units work well until you have to get off the interstate and take the back roads to avoid heavy traffic," Nagy said. "Everyone should pick up a good map in case they have to make an unexpected travel route adjustment."