The holidays are about spending time with loved ones, and that often means traveling hundreds of miles to be with family and friends. No matter what holiday you're celebrating or which destination you're traveling to, you have the chance to have an amazing holiday - as long as your journey goes smoothly, that is.
More Americans are ready to travel
The most recent report from AAA predicts that nearly 100 million Americans will travel for the holidays
. According to the forecast, approximately 98.6 million people embark on a journey of more than 50 miles in the month of December, marking a 4 percent increase from last year's figures. If the predictions hold true, it will mark the most year-end travelers since 2001, according to AAA.
Of those globetrotters, about 91 percent will be taking a road trip to reach their destination. That's 4.2 percent more than in 2013, likely due to the affordable gas prices found in much of the country. Because it's now easier on the wallet to embark on a trip - at least compared to recent years - many people are taking advantage and looking to spend the holidays with loved ones.
"'Tis the season for holiday travel, and this year more Americans will join with friends and family to celebrate the holidays and ring in the New Year than ever before," said Marshall L. Doney, AAA president and COO. "While the economy continues to improve at an uneven pace, it seems more Americans are looking forward with increasing consumer confidence, rather than looking back at the recession. This is helping to drive expected travel volumes to the highest level we have seen for the year-end holidays."
The calendar may also be helping some people get out and enjoy the holidays. Christmas falls on a Thursday this year, and many people - including federal employees - have already received Dec. 26 off
for a long weekend, according to USA Today. That extra Friday may have been a huge boon for some workers, saving them vacation days and avoiding some frustration.
Getting ready for a road trip
If you're one of the millions of Americans gearing up for a long road trip, you'd be smart to cross a few items off your to-do list first. AAA estima
ted that it will have to rescue about 1.1 million people on the roads this holiday season. While many of these motorists will likely be dealing with collisions and unavoidable accidents, more will be left facing problems that could have been prevented with a car tune up
Low gas prices may have you excited, but there's more opportunities for saving if you know how to care for your car. For example, drivers who invest in tire alignment
before the holidays can make sure their vehicles are operating smoothly, which in turn limits the amount of gas needed to travel a given distance. Similar actions, such as tire rotation
or even a simple oil change
, can also make a big difference.
It may also help some drivers to know when to travel. USA Today reported that fewer people travel on holidays themselves, meaning roads and airports may be empty on Christmas Eve, Christmas Day and New Year's Day. Of course, there's a reason for these lack of crowds - no one wants to travel then. So if you want to capitalize on empty roads while still spending time with family, you may have to stick to off-peak times.