AAA Carolinas: Travel up, gas prices down
Nearly 3 million North Carolinians will travel 50 miles or more for the Christmas/New Year’s holiday, according to AAA Carolinas.
The record number – 2,939,500 – represents an increase of 113,000 compared to last year. An estimated 2,675,000, or 91 percent of total travelers, plan to drive to their destination.
“Falling gas prices and an improving economy has led to more North Carolinians traveling to celebrate the holidays and ring in the New Year with family and friends,” said David E. Parsons, president and CEO of AAA Carolinas. “With most people hitting the roads during this time, we want to stress the importance of buckling up, avoiding drinking and driving, texting behind the wheel and speeding.”
The 13-day Christmas/New Year’s travel holiday is defined as Tuesday, Dec. 23, through Sunday, Jan. 4, which is one day longer than the travel period last year.
As the longest holiday travel period of the year, it is also one of the deadliest. Last year, 42 people died on North Carolina roads during the year-end holiday travel period – that’s 5 more fatalities than in 2012.
Those driving to their destinations will encounter the lowest gas prices since 2009. North Carolinians are currently paying 74 cents less for a gallon of gas than they were a year ago. Gas prices in North Carolina are 24 cents lower than they were on Thanksgiving Day. The statewide average is currently $3.48 and prices are expected to continue their decline through the start of 2015, due to an abundant supply domestically and less people driving in the winter months.
North Carolina motorists will find the cheapest gas in Charlotte at $2.43 and the most expensive gas in Boone at $2.67. For those traveling through South Carolina, the average price per gallon is 21 cents lower than North Carolina’s.
An estimated 156,700 North Carolinians will fly to their destinations, a slight increase from last year.
Driven by low-cost carriers, airfares are down 7 percent from a year ago, averaging $186 for the top 40 U.S routes. However, car rental rates are up 4 percent from a year ago to $66 per day.
Hotel rates for AAA Three Diamond hotels have increased by 4 percent from a year ago, averaging $143 per night. AAA Two Diamond hotels average $108 per night, a 5 percent increase from last year.
With holiday parties frequently held between Christmas and New Year’s, drunk driving is always a major problem during this travel period. AAA advises drivers to assign a designated driver or call a cab if they are planning to consume alcohol.
North Carolina’s “Booze It & Lose It” campaign which started Dec.12 and runs through Jan. 4, includes checkpoints and stepped-up patrols to remove impaired drivers from North Carolina roads.
During the holiday period, unexpected weather or vehicle problems may leave motorists stranded. AAA Carolinas recommends keeping an emergency kit in your car that includes:
- Cell phone and car charger
- Blankets and flashlight with extra batteries
- First aid kit
- Drinking water and non-perishable snacks
- Small shovel and a sack of sand or cat litter for traction
- Windshield scraper
- Battery booster cables
- Emergency triangle reflectors
- Change of clothes, including socks and shoes
For the latest on construction delays, up-to-date traffic information related to closed travel lanes, accidents or expected congestion due to special events, go to the North Carolina Department of Transportation website, www.ncdot.org, and click on Travel & Maps and then on the Traveler Information Management System.
Survey data is taken from AAA’s Leisure Travel Index, AAA/HIS Global Insight holiday travel forecast and AAA Carolinas data.
To estimate fuel costs, travelers can go to www.fuelcostcalculator.com to input starting city, destination, and the make and model of their car.
The free AAA Mobile app for iPhone and Android devices uses GPS navigation to help travelers map a route, find updated gas prices, view nearby member discounts and access AAA Roadside Assistance.