While the economy may be bouncing back, Thanksgiving travel is not.
GasBuddy recently revealed in its 2021 Annual Thanksgiving Travel Survey that 32% of Americans plan to travel for Thanksgiving this year, a decline from 35% last year that compares to some 65% that planned to hit the road for Thanksgiving 2019.
While Virginia gas prices have fallen 1.2 cents per gallon in the past week — averaging $3.27 a gallon Monday — that’s still about $1.24 higher than a year ago, according to GasBuddy’s daily survey of 4,081 stations in Virginia.
The national average price of gasoline is projected to decline to $3.35 per gallon on Thanksgiving Day, still amongst the highest seen in more than seven years. But there remains a remote chance that should oil suddenly surge, gas prices could quickly follow and potentially beat 2012’s record for most expensive national average ever for the date: $3.44 per gallon.
“Similarly to last year, motorists are contending with a rise in COVID cases ahead of the Thanksgiving holiday when many drive to celebrate with friends and family. Only this year, we’re also just cents away from the highest Thanksgiving gas prices ever recorded,” said Patrick De Haan, head of petroleum analysis at GasBuddy. “With global oil demand surging this year as the pandemic has eased, we find ourselves in unfamiliar territory — some of the highest Thanksgiving gas prices on record.”
Three-quarters of Americans also say that COVID-19 has had no impact on their holiday plans this year, up substantially from last year’s 46%. Yet, even less are traveling this year than in 2020.
Half of Americans say they are driving less overall this year, and when asked what it would take for them to drive more, an overwhelming 78% said lower gas prices.
Those who are traveling are opting for shorter trips, with most (13%) expecting to spend 1-3 hours in the car. When it comes to making a rest stop, decent gas prices remained of most importance to those selecting, though location and convenience rose above the rest stop’s cleanliness in 2021’s results.
The national average price of gasoline has fallen 1.9 cents per gallon in the last week, averaging $3.39 Monday. The national average is up 2.8 cents per gallon from a month ago and stands $1.30 a gallon higher than a year ago.
But, there may be relief on the horizon.
“With oil prices plunging nearly $10 from the recent peak of $85 per barrel, motorists will start to see gas prices decline nationwide, just in time for Thanksgiving, and the decline could stretch for several weeks,” De Haan said.
If oil prices continue to slide — or at least hold steady — the national average of gas should shed 15 to 30 cents in the coming weeks
“While there’s reason to be optimistic that the peak of gas prices will soon be behind us, the decline in the price of oil is likely reflecting the possibility of a coordinated global release of oil from strategic reserves,” he said. “If that doesn’t happen, oil could again rally. However, with COVID cases on the rise again reducing global demand, it does seem the most likely outcome will be a drop in gas prices that could last several weeks.”