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ORLANDO, Fla. -- More than 93 million Americans will journey more than 50 miles during the year-end holidays, an increase of 1.6 percent compared to 2011, according to the Automobile Association of America (AAA).
The 93-million figure represents one in four Americans traveling during the period between Dec. 22 and Jan. 1.
Of those traveling, 90 percent (84.4 million) will do so by car, while the remaining 10 percent (5.6 million) will fly to get to their destinations. The increase in airline travel would be 200,000 higher than last year.
Also on the rise is median spending among those traveling during the holidays. Median spending will increase to $759, vs. $718 last year, according to AAA.
“The year-end holiday season remains the least volatile of all travel holidays as Americans will not let economic conditions or high gas prices dictate if they go home for the holidays or kick off the New Year with a vacation,” said AAA President and CEO Robert Darbelnet. “Primary economic indicators all show modest improvement from last year and AAA is projecting an increase in the number of Americans stuffing their stockings with airline tickets and hotel reservations.”
Providing assistance to those traveling by car will be gasoline prices. AAA estimates that the average price of gasoline will slowly drop through the end of the year and average between $3.20 to $3.40 a gallon by New Year's Day.
Air travelers will also catch a break, with AAA's Leisure Traveler Index predicting that the average lowest round-trip rate will be $203 for the top 40 U.S. air routes, a 3-percent decline compared to the same timeframe last year.
However, the "fiscal cliff," referring to tax increases for individuals and government spending decreases, remains one uncertainty, according to the AAA.
“As we enter the New Year, one unknown for travel is the looming fiscal cliff and the resulting uncertainty related to near-term tax and benefit changes. Having these items unresolved complicates many travelers’ ability to develop an accurate household budget as they plan for future spending and saving decisions. It is important that Congress and the President work together to quickly resolve the situation for the good of the nation,” said Darbelnet.