More Americans will hit the road over next week's Thanksgiving holiday, but fewer will hit the sales the day after the annual food fest, US travel and consumer groups predicted.
Some 42.2 million Americans are expected to pack their bags and travel at least 50 miles (90 kilometers) from home to celebrate Thanksgiving, which falls on the fourth Thursday of November, the AAA motor club and leisure travel group said Wednesday.
Most of the travelers -- 39.7 million -- will hit the road, around 1.62 million will fly and the rest will travel by rail, boat or a combination of modes of transport, making round-trips that will average 816 miles (1,313 kilometers), the AAA said.
Their average round-trip distance will be 816 miles (1,313 kilometers), around the same distance as between London and Vienna.
The number of Thanksgiving travelers is up by 11 percent compared to last year, even though gasoline is around 25 cents more expensive and air fares are up.
The AAA put the predicted increase in travelers down to "modestly improved economic conditions" and an unemployment rate which, while still high, has held steady for most of the year -- an improvement from 2008 and 2009 when job losses mounted each quarter.
The improving economy could also make it easier for Americans to swallow the slightly higher cost of a Thanksgiving dinner with all the trimmings, which the American Farm Bureau said is up 56 cents from last year.
The average bill this year for a meal of turkey, stuffing, sweet potatoes, bread rolls, peas, cranberries, carrots and celery, pumpkin pie with whipped cream, plus coffee and milk, for 10 people will be 43.47 dollars, up from 42.91 dollars last year but more than a dollar cheaper than two years ago.
The price of the big ticket item on the menu, the turkey, is roughly six cents per pound cheaper this year than last, but that was offset by higher prices for most of the other items on the menu -- especially milk which has gone up by 38 cents a gallon (3.78 liters).
The Wednesday immediately before Thanksgiving and the Sunday immediately following are said to be two of the busiest travel days of the year in the United States, and the day after Thanksgiving is the busiest shopping day of the year.
It's called "Black Friday" because, traditionally, it pushes retailers' accounts into the black.
But the day might not be as successful this year because, despite a slightly healthier US economy, fewer Americans are planning to hit the shops on the day after Thanksgiving, according to a poll by Consumer Reports.
This year, 44 percent of more than 1,000 Americans surveyed told Consumer Reports they plan to go shopping on at least one of the days after Thanksgiving -- a seven-point drop from last year, when more than half of Americans braved the crowds to shop on Black Friday or over the holiday weekend.
"Consumers may not want to deal with the hassles that come along with shopping on Black Friday," said Consumer Reports senior editor and shopping expert Tod Marks.
Some shops open at midnight on Black Friday, and some shoppers camp out in front of the shops to be the first inside when the doors open.
Two years ago on Black Friday, a worker at a Walmart shop in New York was trampled to death by the crush of shoppers who pressed into the store when the doors opened.