Getting ready to travel for the holidays?
Road trippers will see slightly higher gas prices, while flyers will enjoy lower ticket prices, according to travel industry experts.
AAA Carolinas expects more than 3 million North Carolinians and 1.4 million South Carolinians to travel at least 50 miles from home during the Christmas-to-New Year’s holiday, a one percent increase over last year.
And even though pump prices are on the rise, area drivers will still see some of the lowest gas prices in the nation. Average gas price in North Carolina is $2.18, while South Carolina’s current average is $2.03, according to figures released Friday by the travel club. The current national average is $2.22, according to AAA.
“Although we have seen an increase in gas prices recently, Carolinians are still traveling in record numbers to celebrate the holidays and ring in the New Year with family and friends,” said Dave Parsons, president and CEO of AAA Carolinas.
“With so many people hitting the roads during this time, we want to stress the importance of buckling up, eliminating drinking and driving, and avoiding distractions behind the wheel.”
More travelers are flying this year compared to 2015 amid falling fare prices due to competition and more demand for air travel, according to airline industry experts.
For Christmas travel, the average ticket price is down about 3.5 percent compared to last year, according to Chuck Thackston, managing director of enterprise information for the Arlington, Va.-based Airlines Reporting Corp. Passenger numbers are up about one percent.
Thackston says that price dip extends to departing flights out of Charlotte-Douglas International Airport to popular destinations, from LaGuardia Airport ($270, a $74 savings compared to the U.S. average) to Cancun (averaging $793, an $89 savings.)
Overall, most travelers will drive this holiday season, with 93.6 million taking a holiday road trip. That’s an increase of 1.5 percent over last year, according to AAA. Air travel is expected to increase by 2.5 percent, with more than 6 million Americans flying to their holiday destinations.
While advance planning is typically the cheapest way to travel, you can still save if you are just making your holiday travel plans now. Skyscanner, the global travel search company, predicts travelers booking a New Year’s Eve getaway during the week of Dec. 26 can save nearly 7 percent.
Other strategies to save money include:
▪ Staying flexible. Use online search tools to look for cheaper flights, and be willing to fly at odd times, such as red-eye flights or the day of the holiday.
▪ Shipping gifts to save on baggage fees if you are flying. You can still make holiday shipping deadlines this week (Dec. 19-23) with USPS, FedEx and UPS, according to AccuWeather Enterprise Solutions, which examines weather impact on business.
▪ Being aware of travel scams. The National Consumers League warns of suspicious online hotel booking sites and regular monitoring of your frequent flier miles to avoid theft. See more advice from the league at http://www.fraud.org/travel_fraud_alert.
Airports are a favorite target of hackers who set up fake Wi-Fi connections, according to the Better Business Bureau of Southern Piedmont. The BBB advises never connecting to an unfamiliar wireless network, and turning off the Wi-Fi hotspot on your device so others cannot sign onto your network.
▪ Taking advantage of S.C.’s gas prices. If you live near the S.C. border, gas up there. Also, keep up with car maintenance and keep tires properly inflated to save on gas.