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More travelers expected on the road this holiday season
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The down economy and increased gas prices won’t deter Californians from traveling for the holidays this year. According to travel trends research conducted by AAA Northern California and Boston-based consulting firm IHS Global Insight, 11.3 million Californians plan to travel at least 50 miles over Christmas and New Year’s. That’s 11.3 percent more Californians traveling than a year ago.
“The fact that more Californians are traveling during this holiday season appears to indicate that consumers are more willing to spend money on leisure travel,” said AAA Northern California spokesperson Cynthia Harris. “Although many consumers are still feeling the pain of the current economic conditions, here in California they appear to be more focused on controlling costs rather than canceling trips.”
On a nationwide basis, 87.7 million people will travel at least 50 miles to celebrate the holidays, according to AAA projections. California will look to experience a greater year-over-year percentage increase in travelers than the nation will in 2009, as the national forecast represents only a 3.8 percent increase in travel compared to a year ago.
Just less than 40 percent of the nation’s travelers over the holidays will be families. An average west coast family of four will travel 800 miles and spend $1,135 on travel, though AAA projects many families will save money by staying with friends and family. Hotel accommodations will average $119.
Driving will serve as the primary mode of transportation for the lion’s share of California holiday travelers, amounting to 9.9 million vacationers. That’s a 12 percent increase from last year. Those who rent cars to travel will pay 2 percent more than in 2008.
Gasoline has also increased in price from last year. A gallon of unleaded gasoline can be found in the Turlock area for as low as $2.63 today, according to Last year, that same gallon of gasoline was $1.73, again according to
Air travel is projected to experience a 9 percent year-over-year increase, as 633,000 Californians will take to the skies like Santa and Rudolph. The average price of a round trip aircraft ticket will be $179, according to AAA.
Those Californians whose holiday plans include a trip aboard other forms of transportation, be it a boat, helicopter, or Polar Express — or any form of train — will number 800,000. That’s a 5 percent increase from 2008.
For those whose holiday travels keep them close to home, AAA will once again be conducting its Tipsy Tow program to prevent drunk driving. Tipsy Tow offers a free tow, up to five miles in distance, for drivers who have been drinking in Northern California from 6 p.m. on Thursday to 6 a.m. on Friday, and again from 6 p.m. Dec. 31 until 6 a.m. Jan. 1. Regardless of AAA membership, anyone can call (800) 222-4357 (AAA-HELP) for the free Tipsy Tow.
To contact Alex Cantatore, e-mail or call 634-9141 ext. 2005.