Grandma’s homemade stuffing and other family Thanksgiving traditions appear to have a greater influence on holiday travelers this year than escalating gas prices.

Grandma’s homemade stuffing and other family Thanksgiving traditions appear to have a greater influence on holiday travelers this year than escalating gas prices. 

At $3.31 per gallon as of Friday, the average gas price in the Utica/Rome area is the highest ever for the Thanksgiving travel season and 91 cents more per gallon than one year ago, said Ed Welsh, AAA New York Central Region general manager. 

TRAVEL TIPS Even with high gas prices, about 38.7 million Americans will travel 50 miles or more during the Thanksgiving holiday, said Ed Welsh, AAA New York Central Region general manager.
Welsh offered the following tips for travels: 

Trains 
* Check the train/bus schedule ahead of time. Keep your cell phone with you. Update the person who will pick you up on your status. Travel lightly. Keep cash, medication and entertainment with you. 

* About 2.8 million travelers will use trains, buses or other modes of transportation for Thanksgiving.
 
Planes
* Plan ahead by checking the weather. Leave plenty of time to go through security. Check airline Web sites. Try to book flights directly to your destination when possible. Keep cash and entertainment with you in case of delays. Program into your cell phone important phone numbers for the airline, hotel and rental-car company. 

* About 4.7 million people will fly on airplanes for Thanksgiving.
Automobiles 

*  Check the weather before you leave. Get your car checked ahead of time. Make sure you’re rested. Take breaks — you shouldn’t go more than two hours without stopping to stretch, take a power nap or drink some coffee, Welsh said. 

*  About 31.2 million Americans will drive to their destinations during the Thanksgiving holiday.

“Thanksgiving is such an important family holiday that it’s not going to deter people from going to see their families,” he said. 

About 38.7 million Americans are expected to travel 50 miles or more during the Thanksgiving holiday – a 1.5 percent increase compared to last year, Welsh said. The increase also applies to the local level, he said. 

Spending extra money
Frankfort resident Gina Lavalla typically spends Thanksgiving with family members who live in Little Falls. 

Sometimes, she makes the approximately 15-mile drive to Little Falls. Other times, like this year, her relatives visit her house. 

Gas prices weren’t the reason she’s staying home this year, she said, but they are a cause for concern. 

“You go where you’ve got to go,” she said, “but it’s still crazy.” 

Lenny and Debbie Blood of Stratford said they are expecting a holiday visit from their son who lives about 75 miles away in Albany. 

“He’ll spend the extra money to come,” Debbie Blood said. 

“I’m sure gas prices are going to affect the ride though,” Lenny Blood said. 

Manhattan to Middleville 
Already in the Mohawk Valley Sunday, 28-year-old Manhattan resident Jason Greene said he’s traveling back to Manhattan for a few days then returning Wednesday to spend Thanksgiving with his parents, Jay and Flossie Greene of Middleville. 

By the end of next week, Jason Greene will have made the approximately 450-mile roundtrip twice. Gas prices are an annoyance, he said, but they won’t stop him from driving to see his family. 

“I’m going to do it,” he said. “I have to do it.” 

The reason: “Family is there forever,” he said. 

But if prices don’t at least stabilize soon, it could cause some difficult situations, he said. 

“If it gets any worse, a lot of people are going to have to make a tough decision,” he said. 

Other costs decrease
One reason more people will travel this year while paying higher prices for gas could be that hotel rates, airplane tickets and rental car costs all have decreased compared to last year, Welsh said. 

For example, airline prices decreased by 7 percent from last year, and rental cars costs are down 12 percent, he said. 

“If you’re not travelling by car, you might get a better deal than you did last year,” he said. 

The reasons include increased competition among companies and a less than robust fall travel season, Welsh said. 

“People are trying to draw more business,” he said. 

Fran Mazza, manager of Adams Travel Bureau at 100 Rutger St. in Utica, said she hasn’t been affected by gas prices this holiday season because people usually book flights at least six months in advance. 

She, however, does have concerns about next year, she said. 

“We really haven’t seen it affect the airline industry and prices yet, but I’m sure it’s coming,” she said. 

But even for people traveling by car, the higher gas prices usually only mean holiday drivers will spend about $5 or $10 more, Welsh said. 

“Five to 10 dollars is not going to deter you from visiting your family for Thanksgiving,” he said.