More than 3 million NC residents to travel during Christmas holiday

FILE PHOTO: People line up for security ahead of the holidays at LaGuardia Airport in Queens, New York City, U.S., December 23, 2016. REUTERS/Andrew Kelly/File Photo

NEW YORK and RALEIGH — U.S. travelers will hit the roads, rails and skies this Christmas holiday in their largest numbers on record, lured by cheap plane tickets and a growing economy, the nation’s largest motor advocacy group said on Thursday. North Carolina residents will also see an increase in their travel this year with more than 3 million people from the Tarheel State traveling for the Christmas holiday, an increase of 3 percent over 2016 totals.

Roughly 107.3 million Americans will journey 50 miles or more from home during Dec. 23 through Jan. 1, a 3.1 percent increase from a year earlier and the most ever recorded, AAA said in a report.

That would be the sixth consecutive record high for the holiday season, the Florida-based organization said.

“More expensive gas prices are not swaying holiday revelers to stay home,” AAA Senior Vice President Bill Sutherland said. “We’ve seen the strong economy and growing consumer confidence fuel holiday travel all year long.”

The largest share of travel, roughly 90.7 percent, will be on U.S. roads. Energy traders watch this activity closely because it accounts for 10 percent of global oil demand.

U.S. motor trips will rise to 97.3 million for this holiday season, the seventh consecutive annual increase, AAA said.

The group expects air travel to grow by 4.1 percent to 6.4 million trips, the highest since 2004 as passengers take advantage of lower ticket prices. In North Carolina, more than 170,000 will take to the skies for Christmas and New Year’s travel, a 3.5 percent increase over 2016.

Air travel now accounts now for 5.9 percent of all travel, following four consecutive years of share increases, AAA said.

For 2017, motorists are on pace to break the record for most vehicle miles driven on U.S. roads, helping spur potential record demand for gasoline.

U.S. gasoline demand and vehicle miles traveled both set records in 2016.

Gas prices jumped more than 10 percent after Hurricanes Harvey and Irma, peaking on Sept. 8 at an average of $2.67 a gallon. Prices were at $2.45 a gallon on Thursday, up about 9 percent from a year earlier, AAA said.