AAA NorCal: 11.4 million Californians expected to travel during holiday season

While the economy continues in a state of laborious recovery, Californians are maintaining their holiday traditions by traveling for the Christmas and New Year celebrations, according to the latest travel survey from AAA Northern California. AAA predicts an estimated 11.4 million Californians are expected to travel, during this end of the year holiday season, representing an overall increase of 4.1 percent compared to 2010. “Californians are scaling back on travel expenditures as they express pessimism over the current sluggish economy,” said AAA Northern California spokesperson Cynthia Harris. “But many are creating opportunities to visit family and friends during these holidays to catch up on much needed rest and rejuvenation after a very challenging year.”

AAA estimates more than 10 million Californians traveling during Christmas and New Year’s will choose to drive to reach their holiday destinations, representing a 2.5 percent increase compared to last year. The air travel industry will experience a decrease this year as slightly more than 925,000 Californians expected to fly, representing a significant drop of -9.9 percent compared to 2010. Approximately 370,000 state residents are expected to travel by other modes of transportation, such as boats or trains. This represents a 2.5 percent increase compared to last year. Nationally, AAA projects 91.1 million people will travel 50 miles or more during the holiday festivities. That’s a 1.4 percent increase compared to last year. Family travel constitutes 28 percent of total travelers during the year-end holidays. An average West Coast family of four will save money by staying with friends and family, with overall expenditures of $711. An average West Coast road trip will consist of approximately 680 miles. AAA Three Diamond lodgings are expected to increase by 1 percent, costing on average $126 per night, while AAA Two Diamond lodgings are expected to pay an average of $92, an increase of 4 percent from last year. Weekend car rental rates will decrease by 21 percent paying anaverage of $40 per rental. The lowest seen in the past five years. Californians who take to the skies during this holiday season will pay an average price of $210 per round trip ticket for the top U.S. air routes. This represents a stiff increase of 21 percent from last year. Airfares are expected to be 21 percent higher than last year as jet fuel and constrained capacity issues continue to impact the airline industry. As part of AAA’s ongoing commitment to provide safety and protection to motorists, AAA’s Tipsy Tow Program offers a free tow for drinking drivers in Northern California from 6:00 pm on December 24th, until 6:00 am on December 26th, and from 6:00 pm on December 31st until 6:00 am on January 1st. Members and non-members alike can call (800) 222-4357 (AAA-HELP) for a free tow of up to ten miles. “Just tell the AAA operator, ‘I need a Tipsy Tow,’ and a truck will be on its way,” said Harris. “Service is restricted to a one-way ride for the driver and his or her vehicle to the driver’s home.”AAA Tips for Long-Distance Winter Trips:· Watch weather reports prior to a long-distance drive or before driving in isolated areas. Delay trips when especially bad weather is expected. If you must leave, let others know your route, destination and estimated time of arrival.

· Always make sure your vehicle is in peak operating condition by having it inspected by a AAA Approved Auto Repair facility.

· Pack a cellular telephone, blankets, gloves, hats, food, water and any needed medication.

· If you become snow-bound, stay with your vehicle. It provides temporary shelter and makes it easier for rescuers to locate you. Don't try to walk in a severe storm.

· Don't over exert yourself if you try to push or dig your vehicle out of the snow. Tie a brightly colored cloth to the antenna or place a cloth at the top of a rolled up window to signal distress.

· At night, keep the dome light on. This makes it easier for rescuers to find you. Make sure the exhaust pipe isn't clogged with snow, ice or mud. A blocked exhaust could cause deadly carbon monoxide gas to leak into the passenger compartment with the engine running.

· Use whatever is available to insulate your body from the cold. If possible run the engine and heater just long enough to remove the chill and to conserve gasoline.

AAA’s projections are based on research conducted by IHS Global Insight. The Boston-based economic research and consulting firm teamed with AAA earlier this year as part of an agreement to jointly analyze travel trends during the major holidays. AAA has been reporting on holiday travel trends for more than two decades.