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AAA predicts record holiday travel

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Posted at 11:42 AM, Dec 15, 2015
and last updated 2015-12-15 13:42:35-05

Nearly one in three Idahoans are expected to travel during the holiday period from December 23 to January 3, according to the Idaho AAA.

Nationally, the AAA projects the number of year-end holiday travelers will top 100 million for the first time on record, as a result of an improvement in the labor market, rising incomes and low prices -- including gas prices that remain well below last year’s levels.

AAA says boosts in the economy, including a three percent rise in consumer spending, are expected to drive a 1.4 percent increase in travel growth in the Christmas and New Year’s Holiday period, enough to boost overall travel to 100.5 million. The growth is predicted despite the fact that the 12-day holiday period from December 23, 2015 to January 3, 2016 is one day shorter than the holiday period from a year ago.  

“The opportunity to be with family and friends should drive record travel this holiday season,” said Dave Carlson, Director of Public and Government Affairs for AAA Idaho. “The continuing storyline of abundant oil and inexpensive gas will play out this holiday season as welcome gift.”

AAA says it expects 507,000 Idahoans will travel at least 50 miles from home during this period. Nine of every ten of those travelers—representing 456,000 Gem State residents—will be passengers or drivers in motor vehicles.

Stretched out over nearly a two-week period, the numbers are not expected result in undue congestion on the state’s roads, Carlson said.

More than 90 percent of U.S. travelers (91.3 million) will drive to their holiday destinations, an increase of 1.4 percent over last year. Air travel is expected to increase by 0.7 percent, with 5.8 million Americans flying to their holiday destinations. 

Travel by other modes of transportation, including cruises, trains and buses, will increase 2.4 percent, to 3.4 million travelers, the AAA said.

The national average price for a gallon of gasoline remains poised to fall below the $2 per gallon benchmark by Christmas. Today’s national average price is $2.01, some 53 cents less than last year. Idaho’s average price today is $2.14, down from $2.62 year ago.  Twenty-six states now have average prices below $2 a gallon.