22 Dec 2009, 12:35pm

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Holiday travelers feeling the spirit

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Though millions of people still look for work, Americans are starting to spend and travel more as a hobbled economy appears to limp toward a long recovery.

Over the Christmas and New Year’s break, 87.7 million Americans will travel 50 miles or more from home, up 3.8 percent from last year’s bleak season and the largest jump in six years, according to AAA.

That means one in four U.S. residents will soon be on the roads, riding rails or in the air to see friends and family this season. Travelers budgeted an average of $1,009 per household for the holidays, with two-thirds expecting to spend at least as much as they did at this time last year, an AAA survey indicates.

AAA’s findings mirror last quarter’s 2.2 percent economic growth, though down from initial estimates, and last month’s slight drop in the unemployment rate from a 26-year high of 10.2 percent set in October, Bloomberg.com reported.

AAA said:

“Americans are determined to travel this holiday. High unemployment and reduced discretionary income will continue to keep some would-be travelers at home, but this year many consumers appear to be focused on controlling costs rather than scrapping trips.

And what’s good for the nation will be bigger in Texas.

Some 6.3 million Texans will make holiday trips, up 8 percent from a year ago. They’ll travel an average of 934 miles and spend $1,151 per household, 140 miles and $142 more than U.S. travelers.

Holiday travelers face higher gas prices — today averaging 92 cents higher than a year ago — and unruly weather in some spots. A winter storm is dumping on the West and rain could be falling in many parts of Texas on Wedsnday.

If you make a trip, be sure to check our “Before you hit the road” links on the right sidebar, which give you the latest weather forecasts, road conditions, lowest gas prices and airport arrivals and departures.

That all said, have a great holiday season. 



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