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AAA: More travel as gas prices fall

North Carolina’s gasoline prices have dropped 64 cents a gallon since peaking May 6, providing a Christmas present for the 2.4 million North Carolina motorists expected to drive more than 50 miles from home this holiday season, according to AAA Carolinas.
The 11-day year-end holiday will see 2,592,000 North Carolinians traveling with 92 percent driving (2.38 million), 6 percent flying (155,600) and 2 percent traveling by other means (51,800) – a 3.6 percent increase over last year’s travel totals.
“The drop in gasoline prices, higher air fares and fewer available flights on smaller planes, and the slowly improving economy mean more people will travel to visit family, friends and holiday destinations,” said David E. Parsons, president and CEO of AAA Carolinas.
This is the longest holiday travel season, extending from Dec. 23 through Jan. 2. The average price in North Carolina is the cheapest since early February this year when gasoline was $3.14 a gallon and the lowest since peaking at $3.877 on May 6.
Motorists can expect to find the cheapest gasoline in North Carolina in High Point at $3.148 a gallon and the most expensive gas in Boone at $3.314. For those traveling through South Carolina, the average price per gallon is 20 cents lower than North Carolina’s.
Gas prices in North Carolina are averaging 13 cents less than pre-Thanksgiving holiday prices. Prices are expected to remain stable or slightly decrease over the holidays, according to AAA Carolinas, due to a nationwide decline in demand and Congressional budget wrangling.
Air travel is expected to be down slightly, with airfares up 21 percent over last year, triggered by higher jet fuel costs and reduced capacity as airlines try to increase profits.
The lowest round-trip airfare average for 40 city-to-city trips is $210 this year, compared to $174 last year, according to HIS Global Insight, which does holiday travel forecasting research for AAA.
Many flights have been sold out since mid-December, according to AAA travel agents. However, those who do fly will find car rental rates lower by 21 percent this year, dropping to an average $40 for a daily rate.
Carolina travelers are expected to log an average trip of 726 miles from home, a dramatic drop from an average 1,050 miles roundtrip last year, reflecting shorter airline flights and shorter drives.
Holiday spending is expected to increase slightly from $694 to $718 for fuel, accommodations, shopping, entertainment and other travel related costs.
Hotel rates are expected to be flat for AAA Three Diamond (mid-range) properties, the most popular, at $126 a night.
North Carolina highways were the scene of more than 65 fatalities during the 2008-2010 winter holiday seasons. An average of almost 300 traffic injuries a day are typically reported during the holidays. AAA Carolinas wants to remind everyone to drive carefully this year.
Drunk driving is always a major problem during this travel period with holiday parties often held between Christmas and New Year’s. Remember to secure a designated driver or call a cab if you are going to consume alcohol.
Unexpected weather or vehicle problems may leave motorists stranded this holiday season and inclement weather is probable.
AAA recommends keeping an emergency kit in your car that includes:
• Mobile phone and car charger
• Blankets and flashlight with extra batteries
• A first aid kit
• Drinking water and non-perishable snacks
• Small shovel and sack of sand or cat litter for traction
• Windshield scraper
• Battery booster cables
• Plastic emergency triangle reflectors
Travel aids online from AAA include:
AAA TripTik Mobile, a free app, compares gas prices at nearby stations plus other travel information.
AAA Insurance, also a free app, which instructs you what information to collect and how to file for a claim following an accident.
AAA Carolinas, an affiliate of the American Automobile Association, is a not-for-profit organization that serves more than 1.8 million members with travel, automobile and insurance services while being an advocate for all travelers.

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