Higher costs not discouraging holiday travel this year

AAA said this year's holiday travel should set a record even though gas prices are 28 cents more per gallon than this time last year.
By Daniel J. Graeber Follow @dan_graeber Contact the Author   |  Dec. 15, 2017 at 8:38 AM
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Dec. 15 (UPI) -- Moving into two straight weeks of U.S. holiday travel, AAA said there could be some relief at the pump, but gas prices are expensive by historic standards.

The motor club lists a national average retail price of $2.45 for a gallon of regular unleaded on Friday, down about 4.5 percent from one month ago. Prices are expected to drop on average by another 5 cents per gallon before the year is out, bringing some relief to the estimated 97.4 million people taking to the road for the holiday season.

That said, the motor club said holiday-season gas prices are the highest they've been since 2014. So far this December, the price for gasoline is 28 cents more than it was last year.

For consumer prices in general, the U.S. Labor Department reported average prices paid in November rose 2.2 percent from last year. Gasoline and energy-related costs accelerated the most when compared with other items like food, which saw a 0.6 percent increase from last year.

In a potential indication of future demand and discretionary spending for the holidays, consumer prices for all energy commodities are up 16.4 percent from last year. Two years ago, the average price for regular unleaded at this time of year was $2.03 per gallon.

For the global economy in general, Angel Gurria, the secretary general for the Organization of Economic Cooperation and Development, said growth is lopsided, wages aren't keeping pace with the economy, household debts are rising and "danger signs are flashing" for some real estate markets.

Nevertheless, AAA said that's not doing much to discourage holiday travel this year, with an estimated 107.3 million people traveling by planes, trains and automobiles.

"More expensive gas prices are not swaying holiday revelers to stay home," AAA's Bill Sutherland said in a statement. "In fact, across the board this year, travel has increased year-over-year for every major holiday weekend -- Memorial Day, Independence Day, Thanksgiving -- and we project the same for the year-end holiday period."

If its estimate is correct, AAA said this will be the highest travel volume for this holiday season on record and a 3.1 percent increase from last year. In the last 10 years or so, year-end holiday travel has increased more than 25 percent.

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