By Rachel Mehlhaff / Staff Writer
More Texans are planning to travel for the holidays this year compared to last year, according to a recent report from AAA Texas.
Automobile association officials estimate that about 7.7 million Texas will be traveling over the next week.
This is considered the longest holiday travel time for the year because there are two holidays close together and people have more time off, said Doug Shupe, spokesman for AAA Texas.
He said people typically journey longer distances and spend more money to celebrate the holidays with family. This year, Texans are expected to log an average of 749 miles round trip and spend $744 on travel expenses, including accommodations, food and fuel, Shupe said.
Travel will be up slightly across the nation, Shupe said, because of the economic recovery, although recovery has been long and slow.
“People are feeling a little more confident,” he said.
The Denton Record-Chronicle asked readers on Facebook whether improved economic conditions were encouraging them to travel. Some felt the economy is getting stronger, but others disagreed.
Bob Stalder wrote that he didn’t believe the economy was recovering. Kristy Jones Spainhour said her family would be traveling because of the improving economy.
AAA Texas’ Shupe said gas prices won’t affect travel this week as much because most families already knew whether they would be going on a trip before gas prices changed. But the lower prices are welcome, he said.
The Texas average for gas last week was $3.03 a gallon, down 6 cents from the previous week and below the national average of $3.23 a gallon, Shupe said.
Because there will be a higher demand for gas this week, the average price may go up slightly, he said.
Most people will be driving because it is more economical for families, Shupe said. About 7.1 million Texas are expected to travel by car for the holidays, up 2 percent from last year.
About 346,000 will travel by plane, and about 247,000 will take other forms of transportation, including buses or cruises, he said.
“We know it’s going to be a very busy time,” Shupe said. “We would encourage people to be so careful, focus on the road ahead of you, avoid distractions, go the speed limit — lower if conditions warrant it — and wear their seat belts.”
RACHEL MEHLHAFF can be reached at 940-566-6889. Her e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org.