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December 19, 2013

AAA expects U.S. holiday travel to reach record high

HOUSTON — U.S. travel during the Christmas and New Year's holidays will rise for a fifth straight year to reach a record, boosted by more automobile trips, AAA said.

About 94.5 million people will journey 50 miles or more from Dec. 21 to Jan. 1, the nation's biggest motoring organization said in a statement today. That's up from 94 million a year earlier and the most in data started in 2001.

People will travel more because the 12-day holiday period is a day longer this year and Christmas Day is a Wednesday, according to AAA, based in Heathrow, Fla. That makes it easier to plan vacations and other trips.

"While economic growth has stagnated and consumer confidence has fallen, Americans will not be Scrooges when it comes to traveling this year," Marshall Doney, AAA's chief operating officer, said in a statement.

A record 85.8 million people will travel by car and truck, up 0.9 percent from 2012. About 91 percent of holiday travelers will drive, up 0.2 percentage point from 2012.

The number of air travelers will decline 1.4 percent to 5.53 million and make up about 6 percent of the total, little changed from 2012.

Other modes of travel, including bus and train, will account for 3.3 percent of trips, or 3.1 million travelers, 4.2 percent less than a year ago.

The lowest average published airfares will fall 2.5 percent to $199 for round-trip tickets, AAA said. The daily rental rate for a mid-sized car will jump 15 percent to $63.

Almost 30 percent of Americans will take a trip, traveling an average of 805 miles, up from 760 last year, at a median cost of $765, up from $759.

Regular gasoline at the pump, averaged nationwide, declined 1.9 percent this year to $3.228 Monday, AAA said on its website.

AAA's projections are based on research by IHS Global Insight of Lexington, Mass.

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