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Gas Prices Drop for Holiday Travel Season; Up $1.09 Per Gallon Year-Over-Year

Travel bounces back for the holidays.

Expect lower gas prices when you head to the pumps this busy holiday travel season. 

Even though demand "surged last week, buoyed by increased pre-holiday consumer confidence," the national average for a gallon of gas dipped three cents to $3.30, according to AAA.

That's good news for anyone filling up for a big holiday road trip, but the current national average for a gallon of gas stands $1.09 higher than it was at this time last year.

“A recovering economy coupled with strong employment is leading to increased demand for gasoline,” said Andrew Gross, AAA spokesperson. “This demand increase should drive pump prices higher, but it’s been blunted by the wavering price of crude oil.”

National Gas Price Comparison.

Travel Bounces Back

After a year in which the pandemic kept many people close to home, if not at home, for the holidays, 2021 marks somewhat of a return to normal. 

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More than 109 million Americans will travel 50 miles or more this holiday season either in their vehicles, on airplanes, or using some other form of transportation, according to AAA. That's up 34% year-over-year, but it's still only 92% of 2019 levels.

The best travel news, however, may be reserved for airlines including Southwest (LUV) - Get Southwest Airlines Co. Report, Delta Airlines (DAL) - Get Delta Air Lines, Inc. Report, and other major carriers. Airlines can expect a 184% increase from last year.

Those estimates, it should be noted, were published by AAA on Dec. 15 and it remains possible that the omicron variant causes some people to cancel their holiday travel plans.

“Americans who canceled their vacations in 2020 want to gather with family and friends for the holidays this year, although they will still be mindful of the pandemic and the new omicron variant,” said Paula Twidale, senior vice president of AAA Travel. “With vaccines widely available, conditions are much different and many people feel a greater level of comfort with travel.”

Travel Will Cost You More

Higher gas prices and generally higher prices due to inflation and/or supply chain issues will impact what it costs Americans to travel this holiday season. AAA found that prices are up in a number of major categories:

  • Air Travel: Prices are up 5% from last year with the average lowest round-trip fare of $154 for major U.S. destinations."
  • Hotel: "Mid-range hotel rates have increased 36% for AAA Approved hotels for Christmas travel, with an average nightly rate of $320. For New Year’s Eve, the average nightly rate is $267," according to AAA data.
  • Car Rentals: Renting cars has generally been more expensive all year due to a shortage of vehicles and rental car prices will be 20% higher than they were in 2020.

AAA pointed out that Christmas Day and New Year's Day will be the least congested times to travel for Americans looking to minimize how much time they spend stuck in traffic.