SOUTHFIELD (WWJ) – An estimated 2.9 million Michigan residents – on par with last year’s projection — will travel 50 miles or more from home during the upcoming Christmas holiday period, according to AAA’s latest travel survey. Nationwide, AAA forecasts 91.9 million Americans will travel, up 1.4 percent from a year ago.

The 11-day year-end holiday period is the longest holiday travel season of the year, allowing more residents time to visit family or take vacations. AAA defines this year’s holiday travel season as Friday, Dec. 23, 2011 to Monday, January 2, 2012.

Most Michigan travelers will go by car, truck or van to destinations this year (92 percent, compared to 91 percent nationally), while six percent will go by air (the same number nationally). The rest will travel by bus or train. Michigan motorists can expect to pay about 30 cents more for a gallon of gas ($3.30 as of December 14), compared to last year.

During the upcoming holiday travel period, Americans plan to travel an average 726 miles roundtrip, down from last year’s 1,052 miles. Median spending per household is expected to be $718, up from $694. Most of those surveyed reported the main purpose of their trip was to visit family or friends.

While many travelers indicate they will stay with family or friends, those planning to stay at hotels will find average prices up slightly from last year. According to AAA’s Leisure Travel Index, hotel rates for AAA Three Diamond (mid-range) lodgings over the year-end holidays are expected to increase a modest one percent. Travelers will spend an average of $126 per night.

According to AAA’s Leisure Travel Index, year-end holiday airfares are expected to be 21 percent higher than last year, with an average lowest round-trip rate of $210 for the top 40 U.S. air routes. However, daily car rental are $40 on average – a 21 percent drop.

During last year’s Christmas holiday period, there were six traffic fatalities reported by the Michigan State Police. Of the six fatal crashes, three involved alcohol. Lack of restraint use was a factor in three of the crashes.

Last New Year’s holiday period, Michigan State Police reported five fatal crashes with five fatalities. One crash involved alcohol.

AAA Michigan urges motorists to allow extra time, buckle safety belts, get plenty of sleep and avoid alcohol during the upcoming holidays. If plans call for a holiday gathering, hosts should make sure guests do not drink and drive.


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