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AAA: Gas Prices go Down, Travel Goes Up

With gas prices down 50 cents since September, 93.3 million Americans are expected to take a trip this holiday season, an increase of 1.6 percent.

AAA projects 93.3 million Americans will travel 50 miles or more from home during the year-end holidays, an increase of 1.6 percent over the 91.8 million people who traveled last year.

This increase brings holiday travel figures to within half a million of the decade high mark seen during the 2006/2007 season. The year-end holiday travel period is defined as Saturday, Dec. 22 to Tuesday, Jan. 1, 2013.

AAA estimates the national average price of gasoline will slowly drop through the end of the year and average between $3.20-3.40 a gallon by New Year’s Day. Gas prices dropped about 50 cents a gallon on average from September through early December, but remain at record highs for this time of year.

AAA does not expect gas prices to have a major impact on travel volume, but consumers could have more money to spend on holiday shopping, dining and entertainment if prices drop through December as expected.

Highlights from AAA's Holiday Travel Forecast:

  • Year-end holiday travelers to total 93.3 million, an increase of 1.6 percent from the 91.8 million that traveled last year
  • Ninety percent of travelers (84.4 million) to travel by automobile, representing 26.7 percent of the total U.S. population
  • Holiday air travel expected to increase 4.5 percent to 5.6 million travelers from 5.4 million in 2011
  • Median spending expected to increase almost six percent to $759, compared to $718 in 2011 with transportation costs consuming about 29 cents of every travel dollar.
  • Average distance traveled to increase to 760 miles round-trip from 726 miles, an expected result with an increase in air travelers
  • Travel volumes for the year-end holidays are generally very stable, only once in the past decade has there been a change in travel volume greater than five percent

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