Millions of Americans ready to travel for the holidays

December 17, 2013 12:00 AM

The holidays are a time of celebration, so it makes sense that so many Americans are eager to spend this joyous time of year with the people they care about most. It looks like many people are feeling festive this year, as record numbers of travelers are expected to get behind the wheel to reach holiday parties. 

Holiday revelers head out in droves
According to AAA, nearly 94.5 million Americans are expected to travel more than 50 miles from home during the end-of-the-year season. That is a 0.6 percent increase from last year, when about 94 million headed out for the holidays, and marks the fifth straight year that the number of people traveling has grown. The average distances these Americans will travel is approximately 805 miles, up from 760 miles in 2012. 

"While economic growth has stagnated, and consumer confidence has fallen, Americans will not be Scrooges when it comes to traveling this year," said Marshall L. Doney, the chief operating officer of AAA. "AAA is projecting more Americans to travel than ever before to gather with friends and family, exchange presents and ring in the new year." 

More people choosing to drive
With so many people traveling great distances this season, it's expected that the bulk of travelers will be flying to their destination. However, the vast majority of Americans will take a road trip to meet up with family and friends this year. About 91 percent of travelers, or more than 85 million people, will be packing up the car to drive to a destination, which is an increase of almost 1 percent compared to last year. 

All of these motorists are ready to drive thanks in large part to the declining price of gas. AAA predicts that the average cost of a gallon of gas will be significantly lower than at the same time last year, making it easier for Americans to budget for a trip. In fact, the lower prices at the pump have even lead more people to rent cars for their trips. Rental rates for automobiles are expected to rise about 13 percent compared to the end of 2012. 

Common problems
With so many people taking to the roads, it's only natural that some hiccups in travel will follow. AAA anticipates that it will have to aid about 3.76 million drivers during the end-of-the-year travel period, with the bulk of the problems stemming from flat tires or dead batteries. However, motorists can be proactive and work to avoid breakdowns. Getting an auto tune up before departure is key, as a professional mechanic can check and see if there are any issues that need to be addressed. 

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