Growing economic confidence, falling gas prices are driving more people to travel this holiday season

Orlando SentinelDecember 15, 2012 

ORLANDO — Packing your bags again for the year-end holidays? Increasingly, you're not alone.

Travel during the Christmas and New Year's holidays is forecast to rise for the fourth year in a row.

Auto club AAA projected Thursday that 93.3 million Americans will take a trip 50 miles or more from home during the holidays, an increase of 1.6 percent from last year.

The last time Americans pulled back on their year-end travel was in 2008, when the number vacationing or visiting friends and relatives fell about 3.4 percent from a year earlier.

"We're seeing a little more confidence in terms of households this year," said Jessica Brady, a AAA spokeswoman in Florida. "We have some falling gas prices, which are definitely helping."

The year-end holidays are usually when travelers are most likely to put aside their economic fears — fiscal cliff or not — and push forward with plans to see family and friends, Brady said.

That's one reason AAA considers them the "least volatile" of travel holidays.

"We are seeing more robust travel of the year-end holiday than we did for the other holidays this year," she noted.

According to AAA, about 84.4 million people will drive to their destination this year, an increase of 1.3 percent, while about 5.6 million expect to fly, up 4.5 percent from a year ago.

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