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Busiest holiday car travel ever

By Tara Baukus Mello ·
Wednesday, December 18, 2013
Posted: 6 am ET

If you are planning on taking a car trip for the holidays, be prepared to join the crowds. This year-end holiday season will be the busiest ever recorded, according to AAA estimates, with nearly 30 percent of all Americans taking a trip and 27 percent traveling by car.

In total, a projected 94.5 million Americans will travel 50 or more miles from home. That number, an increase of 0.6 percent over last year, marks the fifth consecutive year of increases. Of that group of travelers, 91 percent of them, about 85.8 million, will take road trips in cars, a 0.9 percent increase. Air travel is expected to decline slightly to 5.53 million travels compared to 5.61 last year.

Because the holidays fall on Wednesdays this year, travelers have more flexibility as to the days they will travel. As a result, the holiday travel season is longer this year -- defined as Saturday, Dec. 21 to Wednesday, Jan. 1.

AAA's survey of those with travel plans found that the average distance traveled is expected to be 805 miles, an increase of 45 miles over last year. While gas prices have climbed slightly recently, those taking a car road trip can expect to save on gas costs compared to last year's holiday season. However, those renting a car are likely to pay more. AAA found that weekend daily car rental rates will be $63 on average compared to $55 last year.

How about you? Are you driving somewhere for the holidays? Will you save money doing it?

Tara Baukus Mello writes the cars blog as well as the weekly Driving for Dollars column, providing both practical financial advice for consumers as well as insight into the latest developments in the automotive world. Follow her on Facebook here or on Twitter @SheDrives.

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