Reality Check: AAA Claims Thanksgiving 'Cheapest Holiday' - NBC Bay Area
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Reality Check

Vets the truthfulness of claims and measures the efficacy of public policy

Reality Check: AAA Claims Thanksgiving 'Cheapest Holiday'



    Reality Check: Thanksgiving a Cheap Holiday?

    In this edition of Reality Check, Sam Brock examines claim that Thanksgiving is the cheapest major holiday. (Published Wednesday, Nov. 27, 2013)

    How much will the Thanksgiving holiday set you back this year?

    According to AAA Travel, whatever that figure ends up being it’s almost certainly less than your tab for July 4th, Christmas, Memorial Day or Labor Day.

    The travel agency projects a national average of $465 in expenses per ‘group’ over the Thanksgiving holiday, and a $681 average in California.

    Those figures apply to all travelers whether it’s a trip for one or a 12-person family.

    Shane Norton, an analyst with the Boston-based economic research firm that compiled the report, IHS, told NBC Bay Area that the company used the following criteria:

    • transportation
    • accommodations
    • food and beverages
    • shopping
    • entertainment and recreation

    Norton attributes the lower Turkey Day total to a few factors, but most notably the fact that most people drive to their destinations for Thanksgiving (the group says roughly 90 percent) and end up staying with relatives.

    “Typically, for other holidays 20-25 percent of spending comes from hotels,” Norton said. “For Thanksgiving, it’s usually in the 15-16 percent range.”

    For expertise and perspective, we spoke to Marc Casto, president and COO of the largest travel agency in Northern California, Casto Travel.

    Casto says the claim that Thanksgiving is less expensive than the other holidays is likely true, given the fact that travelers are largely avoiding skyrocketing airfare and hotel costs.

    But with one big caveat.

    If a traveling group has to fly and/or stay in a hotel, Casto says that $465 total cost figure goes right out the window- likely the airplane window.

    “The average [plane ticket] across the entire United States is generally between $380 and $425,” he said. “That’s what you can expect for an average, round trip, coach class ticket. For one ticket.”

    As it concerns accommodations, Casto added that hotel prices have been leaping by double-digit figures from year to year.

    “Hotel costs in California in particular have been increasing dramatically over the course of the last year,” Casto said. “California, New York, the Chicago area, Washington D.C., those have been the strongest markets for the hotel sales side.”

    So sure, Thanksgiving travelers benefit from lower costs if they aren’t flying and if they aren’t shelling out cash for a hotel room.

    Otherwise, the holiday falls well short of a bargain.

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