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Cheap gas is boosting holiday travel to record highs with 100.5 million taking trips

Cheap gasoline is helping to boost the holiday spirit to record highs this year — at least when measured in terms of travel.

The number of people taking major trips during the holidays will top 100 million for the first time, according to projections from the American Automobile Association. The travel group said about 100.5 million people, or one in three Americans, will travel 50 miles or more from home during the period from Dec. 23 to Jan. 3.

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EPA file
epaselect epa05041719 Heavy traffic crawls Westbound on the Massachusetts Turnpike (Interstate 90) in heavy traffic as people travel for the Thanksgiving holiday near Grafton, Massachusetts, USA, 25 November 2015. The American Automobile Association (AAA) estimates that with gas prices in the United States at seven year lows, more 47 million people will travel for Thanksgiving, 90 percent of those by car. EPA/MATT CAMPBELL

The increase of 1.4 percent over last year’s figure is being driven by gasoline prices that are at their lowest in years and rising income for many consumers. The national average price for a gallon of gasoline, which is slightly above $2 per gallon today, is poised to fall below the $2 per gallon benchmark by Christmas, AAA said.

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Gas prices are already more than 50 cents lower than at this time last year. AAA said it expects that most U.S. drivers will wind up paying the lowest New Year’s Day gas prices since 2009.

As usual, cars are the most popular mode of holiday transport by far, as more than 90 percent of travelers will drive to their holiday destinations. The group expects air travel to increase slightly with 5.8 million Americans taking holiday trips by air. Travel by train, bus and other modes including cruises, is expected to grow by 2.4 percent to 3.4 million people, AAA said.

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