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Busy 2023 travel year projected to end on near-record bang this Christmas, New Year’s

SALT LAKE CITY — Travel within Utah and the U.S. rebounded to as close as ever to pre-COVID-19 pandemic levels this year, and that’s also how the year is forecast to end with the Christmas and New Year’s rush.

About 115.2 million Americans are forecast to travel between Dec. 23 and Jan. 1, 2024, as a part of the combined holiday travel period, AAA officials said Thursday. It would be about 3.4% below 2019’s record-setting 119.3 million should the projections come to fruition, but it would also be 2.5 million more travelers than last year and the second-highest figure since 2000.

“The travel outline for the year-end holidays echoes what we’ve been seeing in travel throughout 2023. Despite high costs, more Americans are prioritizing creating memories with loved ones and exploring new destinations,” said Brian Ng, AAA Utah’s senior vice president of membership and travel marketing.

Projected driving trends

Most travel, as always, is expected to come by cars and trucks. The organization says they believe 103.6 million Americans will hit the road and drive at least 50 miles over the 10-day holiday period. That’s about 4.4 million fewer travelers as compared to 2019, a dip of 4.1%. It would also be about 1.8% higher than what happened last year.

Those who plan to drive will notice a little less pain at the pump. The average price for regular gasoline is now $3.10 per gallon, down about 21 cents from this time last year. The average cost in Utah is actually below the national average now, falling to $2.99 as of Thursday. It’s as low as $2.77 per gallon in Juab County.

All of this is much cheaper than last year’s holiday rush and even from a month ago. A gallon of regular gas cost about $3.59 this time last year and $3.51 a month ago.

This is tied to a drop in crude oil prices, which normally falls by about 30% from late September into December, AAA spokesman Andrew Gross explained last week. He adds that relatively low…

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