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Holiday travel could break records

Tribune staff report

AAA is expecting to see the highest number of California travelers ever this holiday season, based on the latest travel survey from AAA Northern California.

The auto organization predicts more than 12.1 million Californians will travel during the Christmas season, representing a 3.2 percent increase from last year, according to a AAA press release.

It also estimates about 11 million Californians traveling during Christmas and New Year’s will choose to drive to their destinations, instead of using other means of transportation, which is a 3.4 percent increase compared to 2013.

AAA Northern California spokesperson Cynthia Harris said consumer optimism, an increase in disposable income and lower gas prices are factors in family travel.

“This year the holidays land on a Thursday, creating a holiday travel season that is one day longer than a year ago and the longest since 2008,” Harris said in a statement. “This makes travel scheduling for the period between Christmas and New Year’s more flexible.”

Airlines are also expected to experience an increase over last year — half a percent — with more than 961,000 state residents anticipated to fly to their destinations. The good news for travelers is round trip tickets in the U.S. are predicted to be less expensive this year on average.

However, the largest increase in traveling method is projected to be of those using less-used options, such as boats or trains. About 412,000 Californians are expected to utilize those alternatives, or 4.9 percent more than last year.

Meanwhile, on a larger scale, AAA predicts that more than 98 million people will travel 50 miles or more during the holidays nationwide, according to a recent announcement. The difference is a 4 percent increase from 2013.

The extra travel is expected to lead to a 4 percent price increase at AAA Three Diamond lodgings and a 5 percent increase at AAA Two Diamond lodgings. Weekend rental care rates will also increase by an average of about $8 since last year.

With more than 1.1 million motorists expected to receive AAA assistance between Dec. 23 and Jan. 4, the auto organization recommends drivers check their car batteries and tire condition and prepare vehicles before traveling.


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