Even with higher gas prices than a year ago and Wilkes-Barre metro area the state unemployment rate leader, AAA projects a nearly 2 percent increase in the number of area residents who will travel at least 50 miles during the Christmas/New Year holiday.
AAA Mid-Atlantic estimates nearly 100,000 travelers from Luzerne and Columbia counties, or one out of every four residents, will fly, drive, hop a train or take a bus sometime between today and New Year's Day.
Unlike other annual holidays, the year-end holidays offer an extended period for travel to visit family and friends or take a vacation, making the opportunity to travel more appealing for many people, said Jenny M. Robinson, AAA Mid-Atlantic's manager of public and government affairs.
Automobile is the chosen mode of travel, according to AAA. Ninety percent of travelers from the Wilkes-Barre area will take to the roadways in the coming weeks, even though the average price of gas locally is 12 cents higher than it was in 2011.
At $3.43 per gallon, the average is still 54 cents less than the 2012 peak price locally of $3.97 realized on Sept. 13.
Although 2012 will be the most expensive year on record for gas prices, AAA estimates the national average price of gasoline will slowly drop through the end of the year and average between $3.20-$3.40 a gallon by New Year's Day. Gas prices dropped about 50 cents a gallon on average from September through early December, but remain at record highs for this time of year.
While the percentage of area residents travelling by automobile this holiday is projected to increase 1.9 percent from 2011, the percentage of those travelling by airplane grew even more.
AAA's study reports 6,597 local residents will fly during the holiday travel period, a 4.8 percent rise since last year. It also means 7 percent of those travelling will do so by air, which exceeds the national average of 6 percent.
That's due, in large part, to the decrease in airfare. According to AAA, the average round trip airfare is $203, down 36 percent from last year.
Prices are down and when prices are down, we're going to see more travel. When fuel prices are down, ticket prices go down and we're hopeful ridership will be robust through the holiday season, said Barry Centini, the director at the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton International Airport.
813: The average expected trip expenditures in dollars for Middle Atlantic region travelers.
743: The average round trip, in miles, for Middle Atlantic region travelers.
203: Cost, in dollars, of the average round trip airfare ticket. That's down 36 percent from last year.
90: The percentage of Wilkes-Barre area travelers that will get to their destination by automobile.
25.4: Percentage of local population traveling at least 50 miles for the holidays.
7: The percentage of Wilkes-Barre area travelers that will get to their destination by air.
3.43: The average price of gas locally, which is 12 cents higher than this time last year.