(LOS ANGELES, Dec. 18, 2009) – More Southern Californians are expected to travel over this Christmas-New Year’s holiday than last year, but the number of travelers will still be 27 percent fewer than the last December holiday period before the recession, according to the Automobile Club of Southern California.
The Auto Club is projecting that seven million Southern Californians will take overnight trips of 50 miles or more over the upcoming holidays – an increase of 11 percent over last year. That follows a lackluster two years of holiday travel and is about 2.7 million fewer travelers than the 9.7 million Southern Californians who traveled over Christmas and New Year’s holidays during 2006.
About 87 percent of Southern California travelers, or 6.16 million people, will travel by car to their holiday destinations, while almost six percent, or 400,000 local travelers, will go by air.
Statewide, 11.3 million people are expected to take trips during this holiday – also an 11 percent increase over last year. Of those, 9.9 million are expected to drive and 640,000 are expected to fly. Nationally, 87.7 million travelers are expected, which is a 3.8 percent increase over last year.
“This is the healthiest holiday travel increase we’ve seen in recent memory, but it’s important to keep in mind that it follows a 36 percent decline in the number of Christmas-New Year’s holiday travelers after the recession officially began in 2007,” said Auto Club spokesman Jeffrey Spring. “Many travel providers offered discounts and deals this season to deal with lower advance booking rates, and that fortunately has helped to boost the number of people who can afford to take a vacation this holiday.”
In a separate poll conducted this October by the Auto Club, 39 percent of Southern Californians planning a November or December holiday trip said they would save money on that trip by staying with friends or family instead of in a hotel. Also in the same poll, 30 percent of local travelers said they intended to save money by driving instead of flying to their destinations.
The top five destinations for Southern California travelers, according to a survey of Auto Club travel agents, are:
1) Las Vegas
2) Arizona/Grand Canyon
3) San Diego
4) San Francisco
The top cruise destination is Mexico, while the top air destination for local travelers is Hawaii.
Many travelers could encounter severe weather conditions during their holiday road trip. The Auto Club recommends that holiday drivers follow these tips:
- Get your vehicle checked by a mechanic if possible before departing. Performing routine maintenance prior to the trip will help prevent potentially expensive car trouble on the trip.
- Inspect your tires to ensure they have adequate tread by inserting a penny upside-down into a tire groove. If you can see above Lincoln’s head at any point, the tire needs to be replaced.
- Inflate your tires to the proper tire pressure before departing. The proper tire pressure is usually listed on the inside of the vehicle driver’s door, or in your owner’s manual.
- Bring along chains or use snow tires if driving through the mountains or areas that see below-freezing temperatures.
- Check the weather reports before departing to help select the best route to your destination. Also, you can call the California Highway Information number at (800) 427-7623 for hourly updates on interstate or state route lane closures within California.
- Pack warm clothes, a blanket, flashlight with new batteries, emergency flares, food and water in your vehicle and make sure your cell phone is charged before departing.