Ramona Henderson of Salt Lake City is celebrating Thanksgiving this year in Denver with her son.

She's got a new Toyota Camry — with "much better" mileage than her last car — and plans to make the more-than-500-mile trip from her home to the Mile High City early Wednesday. Henderson isn't expecting a lot of traffic, but she is crossing her fingers it doesn't snow.

"We are really looking forward to the trip," she said Monday. "We prefer to drive because of the Thanksgiving rush ... and as long as we don't have high winds and blowing snow, we'll be safe."

This Thanksgiving holiday, AAA predicts that about 342,000 Utahns like Henderson will either fly, drive or hop on a bus or train to travel 50 miles or more to some destination. That's about a 1.3 percent increase over last year, AAA predicted.

A sidelight to those numbers is that average gas prices in Utah have increased 72 cents over last year, from $2.32 per gallon to $3.04 per gallon. And airlines are expecting a 4 percent increase in passenger traffic, which means long security lines, according to the Associated Press.

Of the Utahns planning to travel this Thanksgiving, approximately 275,000 are expected to drive and another 48,000 plan to fly. Almost 24,000 will take an alternative form of transportation, such as the bus or train, according to AAA statistics.

Rolyane Fairclough, spokeswoman for AAA of Utah, said high gas prices and crowded airports don't normally deter people from traveling during the holidays.

"Bottom line, Utahns still value time with their families," Fairclough said in a statement.

For Henderson, the fact that gas prices are above $3 per gallon is still a worry.

"I'm hoping that one of these days we'll see relief," she said. "But I'm not sure how that's going to happen."

Compared to other Western states, Utah gas prices are relatively low. Gas prices in Colorado are about $3.08 per gallon. California prices are at $3.42 per gallon, while the average price for gasoline in Idaho is $3.10 per gallon.

For those traveling by air, AAA is recommending people come to the airport prepared for delays. Early flights are less likely to be delayed, and sometimes smaller airports can transfer flights faster, AAA said.

Nile Easton, spokesman for the Utah Department of Transportation, said folks who plan to stay close to home this year should watch out for possible construction delays at 800 North in Orem and along I-80 in Salt Lake County from State Street to 1300 East.

He urged all travelers to get rest and not to drive while drowsy. "Our fatalities this year are up compared to last year," he said. "We really are urging people to get enough rest, because that has been a big problem this year, especially on holiday weeks."

To check traffic conditions on Utah roads this week, log on to commuterlink.utah.gov. A listing of average gas prices in Utah and other states can be found at www.fuelgaugereport.com.


E-mail: [email protected]