An estimated 48 million travelers set out for Thanksgiving celebrations in the U.S. this year, according to AAA, and with fuel prices low and increased consumer confidence, projections for the remainder of the holiday season all point to higher numbers of travelers.
Here are some tips for making the most of your holiday travel.
Gas price averages have hovered around $2 per gallon recently, according to GasBuddy.com, making driving an attractive option for travelers. Most people drive rather than fly these days, according to AAA, so while your trip will be cheap, try to find a time when there won’t be much traffic.
Last year, the busiest Christmas travel day was Dec. 23, according to Waze.com, a traffic reporting website. If you plan on traveling a few days before Christmas, leave early. The busiest traffic times last year were from 3-6 p.m.
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If you’re traveling from St. Louis outside of the region, fill up before you go. Gas prices in St. Louis are consistently lower than the nationwide average, according to GasBuddy.com. If you don’t live on the Missouri side of the Mississippi River, check out the GasBuddy.com website or mobile application for the best prices near you or at your destination.
Be sure to check your tires and battery before taking off. AAA was expected to respond to more than 370,000 motorists with trouble, primarily dealing with dead batteries, flat tires and lockouts over Thanksgiving. So after you check your tires and battery, put an extra key in something you take with you and don’t leave in the car, like a purse or your coat’s inner pocket.
It’s no surprise in the midwest that the holidays can bring unpredictable winter weather, so be sure to review safe driving tips before you take off.
If you’re going to fly, hopefully you’ve already purchased your ticket because according to SkyScanner.com, the best time to buy airfare for Christmas was the third week in November. Prices jumped the last week in November, but were forecasted to drop the first week in December.
If you haven’t booked your flight yet, be prepared to drop a pretty penny. On Dec. 11, flight prices were at an average of $591 in popular markets for Christmas travel, according to CheapAir.com. The week before, the average fare was $569. A month ago in November, it was $485. The booking website compares more than 11,000 airfares in the U.S. daily to come up with the estimates, so keep checking back, although you should book as soon as possible.
The best days to travel by air to your Christmas destination is the Monday, Tuesday or Wednesday preceding this year’s holiday on Sunday, Dec. 25, CheapAir.com says. The least expensive day to travel back is on Christmas Day itself, but if you extend your holiday through the New Year, you may see some savings traveling back on Jan. 2 or 3. The priciest return date is Dec. 26.
Ultimately, you have to be realistic, CheapAir suggests. Travel during the holidays is going to be more expensive, less convenient and busier than other times. Prepare to keep your cool and take your time, and your holiday travel experience will be a whole lot more enjoyable.