Thanksgiving is all about gathering friends and family around the table, but fewer Americans plan to travel this year to celebrate to share in the meal.

According to AAA’s Thanksgiving Travel Forecast, 43.4 million Americans will journey 50 miles from home during the holiday weekend, down 1.5% from the 44 million people who traveled last year. AAA reports this decrease is just shy of last Thanksgiving’s four-year peak since the declines seen in 2008 and 2009 due to the recession, when Thanksgiving travel fell by 25%.

The Thanksgiving travel period is defined as Wednesday, Nov. through Sunday Dec. 1.

The drop in travel are due to the sluggish pace of the economic recovery, says Heather Hunter, director of public relations at AAA. “The improvements are not strong enough to drive large growth in travel.”

The survey finds 90% of travelers, or 38.9 million, plan to travel by car this year—a decline of 1.6%. Median spending is also projected to drop nearly 7% to $465 from $498 in 2012.

“Auto travel continues to be the dominant mode of transportation,” Hunter says. “The positive news this year is that drivers will be receiving an early holiday bonus in terms of gas prices, which are at

their cheapest since the 2010 weekend for the holiday.”

Price at the pump are sitting around $3.20 nationally, AAA reports, down 20 cents per gallon from last year.

“We are expecting gas to remain at this price2 [through the weekend] and about one in four states are selling gas right now at less than $3 a gallon,” Hunter says.

Air travel also declined this year by 3.7% to 3.14 million travelers, down from 3.26 million in 2012. As usual, the Wednesday before Thanksgiving will be the busiest single day of travel with 37% of travelers

departing that day.

Here are the 10 most popular destinations for Thanksgiving this year, according to Orbitz:

 

Rank

Destination

Average Airfare

% Change YOY

Average Hotel

% Change YOY

1

New York, NY

$400

13%

$353

16%

2

Orlando, FL

$365

11%

$108

-11%

3

Chicago, IL

$393

11%

$208

-3%

4

Los Angeles, CA

$407

1%

$141

21%

5

San Francisco, CA

$396

-2%

$175

9%

6

Boston, MA

$373

10%

$176

10%

7

Phoenix, AZ

$404

13%

$117

-5%

8

Washington, D.C.

$356

11%

$136

9%

9

Las Vegas, NV

$393

15%

$99

flat

10

Denver, CO

$353

11%

$102

4%

 

Follow Kate Rogers on Twitter at @KateRogersNews