PITTSFIELD -- Thanksgiving tends to be one of the busiest travel holidays of the year, but many Berkshire residents are electing to stay home or drive a short distance to spend their holiday with friends and family.

With many people staying locally, the lines at several grocery stores were several people deep, each with stuffed shopping carts full of iconic Thanksgiving fare like turkey, cranberries, stuffing and ingredients for pies.

Lee Ann Pettus, of Dalton, said she'll be spending Thursday making a meal just for her immediate family -- her two children and husband, Mark.

"It's been tradition in our family to do the holidays separately because so many of us are scattered across the country," she said. "Flights are just too expensive for all of us to meet anywhere."

Road trips
Highlights from this year's AAA Thanksgiving Holiday Travel Forecast:
  • Thanksgiving travelers ought to total 43.6 million, an increase of 0.7 percent from the 43.3 million from last year.
  • Ninety percent of travelers, or 39.1 million, are expected to travel by automobile, an increase of 0.6 percent.
  • Holiday air travel is expected to decline to 3.14 million travelers from 3.2 million.
  • Median spending is expected to drop 10 percent to $498, compared to $554 last year.
  • Average distance traveled to decline to 588 miles from 706 miles.
Projections based on economic forecasting and research by IHS Global Insight.

While most people will be enjoying watching football, cooking and spending time with loved ones, Aubrey Casella will be making sure others enjoy their holiday.

Casella, who works at Cranwell Resort, Spa and Golf Club in Lenox, said the popular hotel and spa is expecting more than 1,000 people for its annual Thanksgiving dinner and she expects to be very busy.

Her boyfriend, Ryan Tuggey, meanwhile, will be going over the river and through the woods to his grandmother's house, a few blocks away, to visit with his uncle who is flying in from Atlanta.

Although many Berkshire residents will spend the holiday locally, there will still be plenty of people traversing the skies and roads this week.

AAA of Southern New England projects that 13.3 percent, or 1.9 million, New Englanders will travel between Wednesday and Sunday, according to Mary Maguire, the spokeswoman for AAA in Massachusetts.

As a nation, AAA said 43.6 million Americans will travel 50 miles or more for their Thanksgiving celebrations, which is up 0.7 percent from the 43.3 million last year. Of all Thanksgiving travel, 90 percent of it will be driven, Maguire said.

When it comes to Thanksgiving, Maguire said "people are driving by car in droves."

Gasoline prices may be 25 cents higher per gallon than they were at this time last year, but gasoline dropped by another 3 cents this week in Mass achusetts. That continuing decline in gas prices and a decent weather forecast will make people feel more empowered to drive, Maguire said.

If you're wondering when the best time to hit the road might be, AAA figures that most departures -- 45 percent of travelers -- will happen on Wednesday, while 36 percent of travelers will return on Sunday.

Maguire said AAA estimates 25 percent of drivers will be heading home from Thanks giving destinations on Monday.

"Expect Monday morning to be a busy travel morning," she said.

For those people who are traveling, it appears that weather conditions will be "ideal" until Saturday, according to Kevin Lipton, meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Albany.

"It looks like dry conditions throughout New England and New York through Friday," he said. "There could be some clouds but no rain or any kind of precipitation and temperatures should be in the upper 40s to lower 50s during the day with temperatures in the lower 30s overnight."

After Friday night, however, Berkshire County could see light snow showers as a weather system from the Great Lakes arrives.

Lipton said the snow isn't expected to be more than a light flurry and shouldn't accumulate.

That's a forecast that Pittsfield resident Corinne Mays says she can look forward to as she and her nine guests enjoy a simple meal.

"We're keeping everything simple," she said of her Thanksgiving feast. "We're just going to use the same recipes my mom used. Cook the veggies in a little butter, salt and pepper and enjoy."

To reach Josh Stilts:
jstilts@berkshireeagle.com,
or (413) 496-6243
On Twitter: @JoshStilts