Expect holiday traffic to be at its highest since the Great Recession began, according to the American Automobile Association. As the economy has improved, so more people are taking to the roads for holiday travel. Motorists are advised to factor heavy traffic into travel plans and to be cautious.
Near record holiday travel projected
AAA projects that 25 percent of Americans will be on the roads for the Christmas and New Year holidays. That is about 93.3 million people, a 1.6 percent increase from last year. That is only about 400,000 short of the record in 2006.
Additionally, the auto club says that around 90.5 percent of holiday travelers — about 84.4 million people — will be driving at least fifty miles between December 22 and the first day of 2013.
Slow down, be patient
The increased traffic will cause all kinds of problems for drivers, most of which can be countered with patience and by lightening up on the gas pedal. Travelers should allow more time for extra traffic, crowded service stations and toll plazas, and the unfortunate possibility of traffic accidents. Cold weather and harsh conditions could also factor into holiday traffic slow-ups.
You may even want to take your car to a reputable dealer like Magic Nissan Everett, Wash. for a winter checkup.
Gas prices and air travel
The price of gas has gone down a bit in the current quarter, although it is now close to the same price it was last year during the same period. That is, between $3.20 and $3.40 a gallon. Although gas prices may be a contributing factor in this year’s holiday traffic increase, a larger reason might be the rising cost of air travel and the difficulty in obtaining tickets for specific times and destinations.
The trade group Airlines for America estimates that 15 million Americans will travel by air this year between December 17 and January 6. The group expects 86 percent of all seats to be filled on planes between those dates. That is up from 85 percent in 2011.
Car rental and lodging on the rise
Then, when air travelers arrive, they generally need to rent a car. The daily rental rates of car has gone up to around $56 dollars, compared to $40 last year.
Lodging is also on the increase, though only slightly so. Hotels and motels rated with AAA’s three diamonds are projected at an average of $129 a night. That’s $3 more than last year.
The study was conducted for AAA by IHS Global Insight. It polled 655 Americans and factored in multiple projections about the uneasy economy.