Holiday Travel

Bob and Joni Barrett, center, of Nacogdoches help their friends Carol, left, and Larry Foster with their luggage Tuesday while dropping them off outside the Longview Amtrak station to catch a train to Milwaukee as the couple head back home for the holidays.

Larry and Carol Foster of New Auburn, Wisconsin, decided to beat the Thanksgiving travel rush by boarding the eastbound Texas Eagle train Tuesday evening in Longview.

The Fosters were dropped off at the Longview Amtrak station for the journey north by his sister and brother-in-law, whom they had spent a week visiting in Nacogdoches.

“We already celebrated Thanksgiving with them (on Monday),” Larry Foster said, adding that he and his wife plan to spend tonight in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, and then drive 200 miles to New Auburn on Thanksgiving Day.

The Fosters’ early holiday departure from the Lone Star State might have saved them time and frustration.

More than 4.1 million Texans will travel over the Thanksgiving holiday — the highest number since 4.6 million in 2005 — AAA Texas spokesman Joshua Zuber said Tuesday.

He said about 3.8 million Texans will travel by car and the remainder will board trains, planes or cruise ships. He said the number of travelers will be the second-highest in data going back to 2000.

“We are seeing a strong economy,” Zuber said. “Consumers seem more comfortable spending their discretionary dollars on travel.”

Motorists can expect gas prices to be about the same as a year ago, Zuber said. Gasoline prices in Longview were on average a penny more Tuesday at $2.22 per gallon for regular unleaded than they were on the Tuesday before Thanksgiving Day a year ago, according to AAA Texas. The average price statewide was $2.25 per gallon Tuesday, also a penny more than a year ago.

The Texas numbers for travel are in line with national projections from AAA, which predicts this Thanksgiving period will have the second-highest volume since the record set in 2005.

Nationwide, more than 55 million travelers are making plans to kick off the holiday season with a trip of 50 miles or more away from home this Thanksgiving, the national organization said. Of that total, 49.3 million will travel by car.

Today will be the busiest day to travel by car, with trips taking up to four times longer as commuters mix with travelers, according to AAA Texas.

Like the nation’s roads, Amtrak, which provides train service to and from Longview, expects to have a busy Thanksgiving travel period. Amtrak set a record in 2018 with its largest passenger count through the Thanksgiving holiday with more than 846,000 passengers.

Amtrak spokesman Marc Magliari said Amtrak expects to beat last year’s ridership because a record number of people traveled by train in the fiscal year that ended Sept. 30.

“We expect to do well this holiday season,” he said.

He said popular destinations from Longview eastbound are Little Rock, Arkansas; St. Louis; and Chicago.

“From the opposite direction, we do pretty well for Austin and San Antonio as well,” Magliari said.