Prepare for busier highways and skyways this holiday season as more Americans prepare to travel.
Both the Kansas AAA and Kansas City International Airport are reporting a boost in travelers.
Across the country, AAA is reporting that 92.3 million Americans will travel 50 miles or more between Dec. 23 and Jan. 2. That’s a 3.1 percent increase from last year.
“There is a growing consumer confidence, a modest economic recovery and some pent up demand that continues to drive travel increases,” said Jim Hanni, executive vice president for the Kansas region and public affairs at AAA.
Travel is up despite rising gas prices.
The national average for self-service gasoline is $2.98 per gallon. Experts predicted earlier this month that the national average would inch its way to $3 by Christmas.
This week in Kansas, the average is at $2.87 per gallon, which is 33 cents higher than last year.
“Holiday travel plans made with the family trumps the increase in gas prices,” Hanni said. “But cuts in other areas may be made.”
As for air traffic, the Air Transport Association of America predicts that between 1.7 million and 2.3 million people will fly daily during the holiday. Throughout the winter holiday, air travel is up by about 3 percent compared with 2009.
The busiest days of the season will be from Dec. 21 to Dec. 23, Dec. 26 to Dec. 30 and Jan. 2 to Jan. 3. On those days, airplanes are expected to be 90 percent full.
At KCI, more than 679,000 passengers are expected between Dec. 16 and Jan. 5. That’s a 5 percent increase from last year.
To make your trip through the airport run smoother, KCI spokesman Joe McBride advises getting to the airport about 90 minutes before your flight leaves, using the airline’s online check-in 24 hours in advance and following the Transportation Security Administration guidelines when packing.
“The volumes of people are going to be heavy,” McBride said. “Typically, people traveling for Christmas or other holidays are not seasoned business travelers and not as prepared for the whole process.”
The increase in travel plans is good news for the economy, Hanni said. When the economy took a nosedive in 2007, the travel industry was among the first to take a hard hit. Now Hanni believes it is one of the first to rebound.
“Now that the economy is starting to come back, travel is ahead,” he said.