A slight dip in fuel prices coupled with Christmas and New Year’s falling on Sundays means more people are expected to be hitting the road to spend time with family and friends this holiday season.
AAA estimates that 112.7 million people will travel 50 miles or more from home between Friday and Jan. 2, an increase of 3.6 million people over last year and closing in on pre-pandemic numbers.
“With Christmas Day and New Year’s Day both falling on Sunday this year, more Americans are planning to travel to take advantage of those long holiday weekends,” said Bevi Powell, senior vice president, AAA East Central.
While travelers today may face snow showers or freezing rain in the morning hours, it won’t last long, said Accuweather meteorologist Tom Kines. “The precipitation will change to rain this afternoon.”
But the mild weather won’t last long, as Friday morning a cold front will move in, accompanied by strong winds. Temperatures will drop into the teens and then into the single digits by Friday night. Those temperatures along with winds of 25 to 30 mph and gusts up to 45 to 50 mph will make for a crisp, cold weekend, Kines said, adding that any wet spots will freeze, so motorists need to keep an eye on road conditions.
Christmas Eve snow showers “won’t amount to anything,” Kines said, so for this area at least, it probably won’t be a white Christmas.
Instead, Christmas day “will be a cold day, with temperatures not higher than the teens,” he said.
The Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission expects to see the highest numbers of travelers on the Friday before each holiday. Projections put 600,000 vehicles on the turnpike Fridays Dec. 23 and Dec. 30. That number drops to 320,000 on Christmas Day and 350,000 on New Year’s day, though the turnpike expects to see more than 500,000 vehicles travel the toll road each Day between Christmas and Thursday, Dec. 29.
Nearly 102 million Americans are set to take to the nation’s highways for the holidays, 2 million more than in 2021.
Gas prices were seven cents cheaper in Western Pennsylvania this week at $3.795 per gallon, according to AAA East Central’s Gas Price Report. Most locations in the Altoona area are selling regular unleaded for $3.759 a gallon. The price at this time last year was $3.867, according to statistics.
Air travel will see a 14% increase over last year, with nearly 7.2 million Americans expected to fly. AAA expects the number of people taking holiday flights this year will come close to matching 2019, when 7.3 million Americans traveled by air.