Last Updated on December 18, 2015 1:08 pm
Nearly three million North Carolinians will travel 50 miles or more for the Christmas/New Year’s holiday, according to AAA Carolinas.
The record number – 2,980,500 – represents an increase of 41,000 compared to last year. Approximately 2,680,000, or 90% of total travelers, plan to drive to their destination.
“Falling gas prices will lead 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, and eliminating distractions behind the wheel such as cell phone usage.”
The 12-day Christmas/New Year’s travel holiday is defined as Wednesday, Dec. 23, through Sunday, Jan. 3.
As the longest holiday travel period of the year, it is also one of the deadliest. Last year, 49 people died on North Carolina roads during the year-end holiday travel period – that’s 7 more fatalities than in 2013.
Those driving to their destinations will encounter the lowest gas prices in seven years. North Carolinians are currently paying 53 cents less for a gallon of gas than they were a year ago. The statewide average is currently $1.97 and prices are expected to continue their decline through the start of 2016, due to an abundant supply domestically and less people driving during the winter months.
North Carolina motorists will find the cheapest gas in Fayetteville and Winston-Salem at $1.96 and the most expensive gas in Asheville at $2.06. For those traveling through South Carolina, the average price per gallon is $1.79
An estimated 158,000 North Carolinians will fly to their destinations, a 0.7% increase from last year.
Airfares are down 6% from a year ago, averaging $174 for the top 40 U.S routes. However, car rental rates are up 3% from a year ago to $68 per day.
Hotel rates for AAA Three Diamond hotels have increased by 4% from a year ago, averaging $150 per night. AAA Two Diamond hotels average $119 per night, an 11% 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 use a car service if they are planning to consume alcohol.
North Carolina’s “Booze It & Lose It” campaign which started Dec.11 and runs through Jan. 3, 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
•Battery booster cables
Emergency triangle reflectors
Change of clothes, including socks and shoes