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Gas prices down; holiday travel up

Nearly 1 in 3 Americans is expected to hit the road this Christmas season.

That number represents a 1.4 percent increase over 2014 and the seventh consecutive year-end holiday travel growth.

The year-end holiday travel period is defined as today through Jan. 3.

“The holidays are a time for joining with friends and family, and the record number of people traveling this holiday should make for a joyous travel season,” said Clay Ingram, AAA Alabama spokesperson. “Rising incomes and low gas prices are helping to fill stockings this year, and more people than ever will choose to spend those savings on travel this year.”

Ingram said the increase in holiday travel this year is being driven by continued improvement in the labor market, rising incomes and low prices, including gas prices that remain well below last year’s levels.

“This is helping boost Americans’ disposable income, but some consumers continue to remain cautious about their finances as they head into the holiday season,” Ingram said.

Ingram said the national average price for a gallon of gasoline remains poised to fall below the $2 per gallon benchmark by Christmas.

“Today’s national average is $2.01 per gallon, 54 cents less than last year,” he said. “The Alabama average price is currently $1.81 per gallon, 59 cents less than last year. AAA expects most U.S. drivers will pay the lowest gas prices on New Year’s Day since 2009.”

Ingram said that driving remains the most popular method of travel.

“More than 90 percent of travelers will drive to their holiday destinations, an increase of 1.4 percent over last year,” he said. “Air travel is expected to increase by 0.7 percent, with 5.8 million Americans flying to their holiday destinations.”

Travel by other modes of transportation, including cruises, trains and buses, will increase 2.4 percent, to 3.4 million travelers.