SOURCE: Automobile Club of Southern California

December 18, 2006 07:01 ET

Christmas-New Year's Travelers Hit the Road in Increased Numbers This Year, Says Auto Club

LOS ANGELES, CA -- (MARKET WIRE) -- December 18, 2006 -- Record numbers of Southern Californians are expected to make vacation getaways over the Christmas-New Year's holiday, according to the Automobile Club of Southern California. About 5.5 million Southland residents, and 8.8 million statewide, are predicted to travel over the holiday -- a 1.6 percent increase over last year.

About 80 percent of Southern California travelers, or 4.4 million people, will take driving trips -- a 1.4 percent increase over last year. Those taking plane trips represent about 15 percent of all travelers, or about 840,000 people -- a 2.7 percent increase compared to 2005. The rest, about 275,000, will take a cruise, bus or train trip, which is a 1.6 percent increase over last year.

"This year, like last year, will give would-be travelers two three-day weekends to get away without using extra vacation time, so there are more opportunities for people to take one or even two trips during this period," said Auto Club spokesperson Carol Thorp.

Statewide, nearly 7 million people will travel by car to their holiday getaways, while 1.4 million will fly and 440,000 will go by other means. Nationally, 64.9 million people are expected to travel over this holiday, which is the most popular holiday travel period of the year.

The most popular driving destinations for Southern Californians over this holiday, according to a survey of AAA Travel agents, are:

1) San Diego
2) Southern California mountain resorts
3) Las Vegas
The most popular cruise destinations are Mexico and the Caribbean, while the top flying destination is Hawaii.

Travelers will be paying about 20 to 30 cents more per gallon for gas than they were this time last year. Gas prices are averaging about $2.50 a gallon in Southern California.

With many local residents heading to mountain resorts for the holidays, the Auto Club offers the following tips for car trip safety in winter conditions:

--  Prior to departure, have your car checked to make sure the fluid
    levels are adequate, tire treads are not worn, belts and hoses are in good
    condition, and windshield wipers are working well.
--  Bring tire chains when driving to the mountains, even if the forecast
    doesn't call for snow. Conditions can change quickly.
--  Pack an emergency kit, a working cell phone and warm clothes in case
    you get stranded. The kit should contain first aid supplies, a blanket,
    water and food, a flashlight and a small shovel for digging around tires if
    the vehicle gets stuck.
--  Snow can close roads suddenly. To get the latest information on route
    closures, call the California Highway Information Number at (800) 427-7623,
    which features hourly updates on state and interstate road conditions.

Contact Information

    Marie Montgomery
    Carol Thorp
    (714) 885-2333