Less than a month after a very busy Thanksgiving travel period, Americans are on the move -- this time for the Christmas holiday, when nearly 92 million people intend to travel between Dec. 23 and Jan. 2, AAA Southern New England said. This is a 1.4 percent increase compared to the the 91 million people who traveled a year ago.

Of the overall 92 million travelers,

Approximately 91 percent, or 83.6 million people, plan to take to the nation's roadways this season, a 2.1 percent increase compared to last year's 82 million drivers.

About 6 percent, or 5.4 million leisure travelers, will fly during this period, a 9.7 percent decrease from last year and

About 3 percent, or 2.9 million people, will take some other mode of transportation, a figure that's 4.2 percent higher than last year.

Nationally, this year's average gas prices of $3.21 are 23 cents higher than last year, while on a statewide level, average gas prices of $3.53 are also 31 cents higher. National gas prices peaked on May 5 at $3.98; while in Connecticut they hit $4.28 on May 12.

On the other hand, this year's air travel volume is the seventh lowest in the past decade as nearly two million fewer travelers are expected to fly than during the 2002 holiday peak. Jet fuel costs, airline capacity cuts and higher air fares continue to impact holiday air travel.

Despite the downturn in air travel, this year's overall travel numbers are good news for the travel industry for several reasons, AAA SNE's public affairs manager Fran Mayko said.

First, this year's overall represent the second highest expected travel volume in the past decade and represents about 30 percent of the total U.S. population -- a positive sign for the travel industry. (Holiday travel peaked in 2006-2007 with 93.7 million people traveling.)

Second, more people appear to be traveling because this year's 11-day year-end period -- the longest holiday travel season of the year -- affords many Americans extra time to visit family or take vacations.

And finally, even though economic improvements continue at a snail's pace, 59 percent of intending travelers feel the economy has either no impact on their travel plans or they feel like things have improved for them. The remaining 41 percent say they plan to travel, but will simply scale back their travel plans because of economic concerns.

In any case, given current economic conditions, the fact a majority of travelers report economic impact on travel plans is a positive sign for the travel industry and another reminder of just how important traveling is to Americans, Mayko said.

AAA's projections are based on research by IHS Global Insight, a Boston-based economic research and consulting firm that teamed with AAA in 2009 to analyze travel trends during the major holidays. The complete AAA/IHS Global Insight 2011-12 Year-End Holiday Travel Forecast can be found at News-Room.AAA.com.

Holiday Travel Tips:

This holiday, American roadways and airports will be busier than usual, so holiday travelers should be sure to pack more patience. Meanwhile, AAA offers these important travel tips that can help everyone have an enjoyable and safe year-end holiday season.

Plan ahead. Use online travel planning tools like AAA's TripTik Travel Planner, available at AAA.com, to help identify the best driving routes, rest stops, and shop the latest gas prices. Con-tinuously monitor weather conditions along your route and be prepared with contingency plans. Doing your homework could save valuable time, fuel costs, and improve travel safety.

Arrive early. Airports will be crowded, and security steps may be intensified, so allow additional time at your departure airport. For domestic flights, arrive at least two hours prior to your departure, and arrive at least three hours early for international flights. Busier airports may require even earlier arrival times. Monitor weather conditions closely, and before leaving home, visit your airline's website for updates about the status of your flight.

Avoid the three deadly Ds of driving:

Drunk or drugged driving. Impairment begins with the first sip of alcohol. A designated driver should be alcohol-free, not merely the person in your party who has consumed the least amount of alcohol. Many medications have side effects that cause impairment, so read medication labels thoroughly.

Drowsy driving. Get seven to nine hours of sleep before driving. Take a break every 100 miles or two hours. Do not drive during hours when you routinely sleep. If you feel tired while driving, pull over to a safe location and take a 20-to 30-minute nap.

Distracted driving. It's the driver's responsibility to keep eyes, mind and body fully focused on the task of driving. Assign a passenger to be the designated texter, talker, and navigator. If traveling alone, pull over to a safe location to use your cellphone or adjust your navigation device, then proceed on your trip distraction free. Child and pet passengers can be distractions to drivers, so allow another adult passenger to interact with these family members.

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