When the Christmas holiday travel season begins Friday, AAA estimates more than 3.5 million Georgians will journey 50 miles or more away from home through Jan. 2. That’s an increase of almost 113,000 people compared to 2021 and a record-high for the year-end holiday travel period in Georgia.
One of the primary reasons for the higher number of travelers hitting the road is the continuing drop in gas prices. The average price of regular unleaded gas in Georgia is $2.78 per gallon, according to AAA compared to an average price of $3.12 per gallon for the holiday season a year ago.
The price is much lower at a number of stations in the Statesboro area. Gas was $2.32 per gallon on Monday at the Parkers on Highway 80 East, just east of the bypass.
Monday's state average is 10 cents less than a week ago, 36 cents less than a month ago, and 34 cents less than this time last year. It now costs $41.70 to fill a 15-gallon tank of regular gasoline. Drivers are now paying $5 less to fill-up at the pump compared to last month.
“Georgians continue to see pump prices decline across the state,” said Montrae Waiters, AAA-The Auto Club Group spokeswoman. “The winter pattern of less driving due to shorter days, combined with increasing crude oil supply, and Governor Brian Kemp’s decision to extend the suspension of the state gas taxes through January 10th, have influenced lower gas prices. Industry experts are still unsure if gas prices will remain low after the new year.”
National travel figures are also stronger than 2021, yet slightly lower than per-pandemic levels. An estimated 112.7 million Americans are forecast to travel during for the year-end holidays. That’s an increase of 3.6 million people compared to last year and the third busiest since AAA began tracking in 2000.
“Despite inflationary pressures, consumers remained resilient and dedicated to travel this year,” said Debbie Haas, vice president of Travel for AAA – The Auto Club Group. “The holidays also benefit from the desire to reconnect with loved ones. Travelers are spending more on travel than any other time in the past two years. The good news is the cost for a holiday road trip will be less expensive than anticipated, now that gas prices are on the way down.”
Nationwide, 90% of holiday travelers will drive to their destinations. In Georgia, 3.2 million residents will take at least one holiday road trip. That’s over 66,000 more than last year and a 1% increase from 2019.
Air travel will see a 14% increase over last year, with nearly 7.2 million Americans expected to fly. Flights and airports will be packed this holiday season, reminiscent of pre-pandemic days.
Demand for flights has surged despite higher airline ticket prices. AAA expects the number of people taking holiday flights this year will come close to matching 2019 when 7.3 million Americans traveled by air.
“If the distance is not reasonable to drive, more people are taking to the air to maximize the time spent at their destination,” Haas said. “Conversely, if the travel distances are reasonable and more than one or two people in the household are taking the trip, it may be more cost-effective to drive rather than buy multiple air tickets and rent a car.”
Other modes of transportation are also rebounding in a big way. AAA estimates travel by bus, rail, and cruise ship will rise to 3.6 million this holiday season, a 23% increase from last year and nearly 94% of 2019’s volume.