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Holiday Travel Tips: It's Going To Be Busy

If you’re planning to travel for Christmas and New Year’s, it will be you and a record number of your closest friends sharing the road.

AAA is forecasting the highest number of travelers on record; 98.6 million Americans expected to take a trip of 50 miles or more from home. That’s 3.8 million more than last year’s holiday season.

“A lot of that has to do with improvements in consumer confidence,” said Mark Jenkins at the auto club’s Tampa office. “People have more disposable income because gas prices are low, and the holiday period is one day longer than last year. The longest, actually, since 2008.”

The holiday period likely will see a record number of people traveling by automobile, about 91% driving to their destinations. Jenkins says lower gas prices get the lion’s share of the credit for this being the most cost-effective way to get around, especially for larger families.

Self-serve regular in Pensacola averages around $2.44 cents per gallon, according to AAA. That’s 35 cents less than last month, and 79 cents a gallon below a year ago. It’s also the lowest price among Florida’s metro areas.

“Gas prices are forecast to be the cheapest on Christmas Day than they have in the past six years,” Jenkins said. “On average people are saving about $10 every time they go to fill up their gas tank. This is more money in people’s pockets to spend on travel, shopping and dining out.”

Gas prices have fallen for about the past 12 weeks. Jenkins says domestic oil supply is at a three decade high and forecast to keep growing. Meanwhile, the price of oil fell to its lowest level in five years, and below $60 a barrel for the first time since July 2009.

AAA also expects to rescue just over one million travelers this holiday season when their vehicles break down. Mark Jenkins says doing a little basic vehicle maintenance before hitting the road will go a long way towards avoiding trouble.

“You want to make sure your vehicle is serviced,” Jenkins said. “But also, program in important numbers on your cellphone. That way, if you’re broken down on the side of the road, you can call an emergency roadside service, like AAA.”

And the auto club once again will offer “Tow to Go” for those who have a little too much holiday cheer. You can call (855) 2-TOW-2-GO or (855) 286-9246 from Christmas Eve, until 6 a.m. on New Year’s Day.