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AAA Chicago Predicts Increase in Holiday Travel


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AURORA, Ill., Dec. 18, 2007 -- Americans are feeling the crunch at the pump and the airports, but it's not keeping them home this holiday season. AAA Chicago estimates that 62.5 million Americans will travel 50 miles or more from home this holiday, only a 0.7 percent increase from last year's 64.7 million travelers. AAA's poll also estimated that 53 million travelers, or 84 percent of all holiday travelers, will go by motor vehicle.

"Whether driving or flying, Americans face steep increases in their travel budgets during this holiday season," said Beth Mosher, AAA Chicago's director of public affairs. "Fuel prices remain at unprecedented levels for this time of year with prices around three dollars a gallon and the airfare has increased 16 percent since last year."

Holiday auto travelers will find gas prices nationwide currently averaging $2.99 for a gallon of self-serve regular gasoline-up 69 cents from last year. Illinois motorists will pay an average of $3.04 per gallon - up 73 cents from last year, and Indiana drivers will pay $2.97 per gallon, a 72-cent increase from last season.

By taking into account a vehicle's fuel economy and area gasoline prices, automobile travelers can estimate the fuel cost of their holiday trip by using http://www.fuelcostcalculator.com/. Also, by utilizing AAA's Fuel Price Finder (http://www.aaa.com/fuelfinder), motorists can access the locations and prices for more than 100,000 gas stations across the country in order to find cheapest fuel along their route

Approximately 8.9 million, nearly 14 percent of holiday travelers, plan to travel by airplane, down 0.3 percent from the nine million that flew over the holidays last year. A projected 3.3 million travelers (5 percent) will go by train, bus, or other mode of transportation.

Approximately 53 million travelers expect to go by motor vehicle, a 0.9 percent increase from the 52.5 million who drove in 2006. With over 81 percent of all holiday travelers hitting the roads this holiday season, AAA wants to remind motorists to drive safely and remember to slow down or move over when they see emergency vehicles along the roadside such as police cars, fire trucks, ambulances or roadside assistance vehicles such as tow trucks. Most states have laws requiring motorists to change lanes away from roadside emergency vehicles or to slow down well below the posted speed limit while passing if they are unable to safely change lanes.

"Slowing down or moving over near accident scenes, or where roadside assistance vehicles are stopped along the shoulder, can help keep emergency responders and motorists safe during the holiday travel season," said Mosher.

Gasoline prices nearly 70 cents more than last year is not the only portion of Americans' travel budgets more expensive this holiday season, according to AAA's Leisure Travel Index. Christmas hotel rates are up 9 percent for AAA-rated Three Diamond hotels, as strong demand allows hoteliers to raise rates. The average price for an airline ticket rose 16 percent from last Christmas; however, rental car rates have dropped a welcome average of 4 percent from their prices last Christmas.

Americans traveling over the New Year holiday will also be rewarded with lower airfares and no increase in hotel rates from last New Year. According to AAA's Leisure Travel Index, travelers can expect to see a two percent decrease in airfares from this time last year, but will make up for those savings with higher rental car rates - up about five percent.

Residents of Illinois and Indiana, along with other Great Lakes region residents, will account for an estimated 10.3 million auto travelers. AAA's Great Lakes region also encompasses Wisconsin, Michigan and Ohio. The Great Lakes region will have about 909,000 air travelers.

With so many travelers going by motor vehicle, it's essential to remember to drive responsibly. Again this year, AAA is distributing its free "Great Pretender's Party Guide" featuring creative and festive non-alcoholic drink recipes from AAA's Four and Five Diamond rated establishments throughout the Midwest. For a free copy of the Guide, visit any AAA branch location or download a copy from http://www.aaa.com/pretenders.

Research for Christmas-New Year's holiday travel is based on a national telephone survey by the Travel Industry Association of America, which conducts special research for AAA.

For more information on any aspect of AAA Chicago's breadth of service including AAA's home, auto and life insurance products; travel-related services, AAA's Show Your Card & Save program; and/or any AAA membership service including emergency roadside assistance, please visit our Web site at http://www.aaa.com/ or call us toll-free at 1-866-YOUR-AAA (968-7222).

Formed in Chicago in 1906, AAA Chicago, also the Chicago Motor Club, represents roadway interests for motorists and pedestrians and serves as a leading advocate for various traffic safety and travel-related issues. AAA Chicago offers automotive, travel, insurance and financial services. It is part of The Auto Club Group (ACG), the largest affiliation of AAA clubs in the Midwest, with 4.2 million members in eight states. ACG clubs belong to the national AAA federation, a not-for-profit organization, with more than 50 million members in the United States and Canada.