NEW YORK – This Christmas travel season could be the busiest in six years, with AAA predicting that 93.3 million Americans will hit the road. That’s 1.6 percent more than last year and just 400,000 people shy of the 2006 record.
More cars will crowd the highways than ever before, largely because finding a seat on a plane at a desirable price has gotten more difficult. AAA says a record 84.4 million people will drive at least 50 miles between Dec. 22 and Jan. 1. That’s 90.5 percent of holiday travelers, up from 89.3 percent six years ago.
Put another way: One in four Americans will be driving long distances for Christmas and New Year’s. So expect plenty of traffic jams, crowded highway rest stops and overflowing toll plazas.
The price of gas could be close to the average of $3.23 a gallon that drivers paid last Christmas Day. The price has dropped about 50 cents since September. AAA estimates the average price will range between $3.20 and $3.40 a gallon by New Year’s Day, according to AAA. That’s pricey, but hardly a deterrent to holiday travel.
While about 1 million more people will driver, fewer will travel by plane.
Airlines for America, the industry’s trade group, estimates that about 15 million people will fly between Dec. 17 and Jan. 6.