The chance to sit down to a meal of turkey, gravy, mashed potatoes and Grandma's homemade pie is causing many Americans to accept paying higher prices for airfare and gas.
The Thanksgiving holiday weekend is expected to be the first significant increase in holiday travel this year, AAA reported.
That's despite 20 percent higher airfare and nationwide gas prices that still are, at $3.35 per gallon for regular gasoline, about 47 cents more than last year.
As of Monday, Tri-City gas prices were about $3.72 per gallon on average for regular and $3.96 per gallon for premium, according to AAA. That is 11 cents cheaper than last month but still 59 cents more expensive than last year.
The statewide average as of Monday was $3.70 per gallon for regular gasoline, 58 cents more than a year ago, according to AAA.
Some of the travel increase likely is from pent-up demand from people who chose not to travel in the last three years, stated Bill Sutherland, AAA Travel Services vice president, in a news release.
About 42.5 million Americans will travel 50 miles or more between Wednesday and Sunday, a 4 percent increase from last Thanksgiving weekend, AAA reported.
The majority of travelers, or about 38.2 million people, will be driving, according to AAA.
At Perfection Tire in Kennewick, manager Terry Slater said he has been busy with Tri-Citians switching to studded tires and preparing for holiday travel out of the area. He is averaging about 50 cars a day, he said.
Drivers should make sure their cars are prepared for winter weather, which includes checking tire pressure and switching to studded tires or carrying a set of chains if travel over mountain passes is planned, Slater said. He suggested the standard winter check, which includes checking coolant levels and making sure wiper fluid is the kind that won't freeze.
And it's smart to carry warm blankets and other necessities in case travelers do get stranded, he said.
The state Department of Transportation suggests that drivers check weather forecasts, road temperatures and the chain and traction requirements before traveling.
Alice Fiman, WSDOT communications specialist, said the state is encouraging people to travel earlier in the day Wednesday, Thursday and Sunday if they plan to go over mountain passes. The temperature will be warmer and visibility will be better, she said.
And drivers should add one to two hours to their travel time if driving over a pass, she said.
Studded tires do not meet the requirement for chains, Fiman said. If just chains are required, then they must be used even on traction tires. Vehicles traveling a pass must carry chains.
Construction on most road projects around the state will pause starting noon Wednesday and restart Monday.
The state also provides predictions of when drivers can expect delays on state highways at www.wsdot.wa.gov.
Higher-than-usual traffic is expected at the Canadian border and on state ferries, according to the state.
While more Americans are traveling this weekend, they will be staying closer to home this year, according to AAA. The average distance of travel will be 706 miles, which is13.5 percent lower than last year. And 3.4 million travelers will fly during the holiday weekend, which is about 1.8 percent more than traveled in 2010.
Thanksgiving airfares are expected to be20 percent higher than last year, according to AAA's Leisure Travel Index.
Fewer planes are flying and fewer seats are available, said Julie Harrington, chief operating officer of Travel Leaders, a travel agency with offices in the Mid-Columbia.
Harrington advised that travelers bring as little as they can on the plane, which will expedite security. And any gifts need to be unwrapped, she said.
Air travel is up, with Tri-Citians going to visit relatives, and planes heading out of the Tri-Cities Airport are quite full, she said. The Sunday after Thanksgiving traditionally is the busiest travel day of the year.
Traveling to tourist destinations isn't common this time of year, as many travelers choose to head to a relative's home for Thanksgiving, Harrington said.
But Travel Leaders still was getting calls from people who wanted to book weekend trips to Las Vegas for Thanksgiving, she said. That isn't a common trip this time of year, but it is affordable.
And others are planning to travel between Thanksgiving and Christmas, taking advantage of the window when prices are good between the holidays, Harrington said. One of the most popular trips is a cruise to the Caribbean.
With unpredictable weather, it's a good idea to purchase travel insurance, Harrington said. That covers delays, trip cancellation, lost baggage and in the event a traveler can't go for a personal medical reason or a medical emergency among his or her extended family.
Travel agencies will sell travel insurance even when the trip wasn't booked through the agency, she said. It can be purchased up until the day the traveler departs.
Tourism to the Tri-Cities is expected to be slow Thanksgiving weekend, said Kris Watkins, president and CEO of the Tri-Cities Visitor & Convention Bureau. It's a family weekend, so there are no conventions or sporting events, and people who come tend to stay with family and friends, which is hard to track.
But Thanksgiving in wine country should draw some visitors, she said.
In the Tri-Cities, Thanksgiving is expected to be warmer than last year, said Dennis Hull, meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Pendleton. The low of 34 degrees will be higher than last Thanksgiving's high of 22 degrees.
Last Thanksgiving, the low was 5 degrees, and there was about six inches of snow on the ground, he said. This year, the high is expected to be around 48 degrees, with some chances of rain later in the day.
And while today and Wednesday should be windy, Hull said little wind is expected Thursday.
-- Kristi Pihl: 582-1512; email@example.com