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Low gas prices jack up number of holiday travelers

Evening rush hour traffic heads through the SunPass/ Toll-by-Plate area near Killian Parkway near the Turnpike extension.
Evening rush hour traffic heads through the SunPass/ Toll-by-Plate area near Killian Parkway near the Turnpike extension. MIAMI HERALD FILE

Holiday travelers will have plenty of company this season as 98.6 million Americans take to the skyways and highways to celebrate with friends and family.

Travelers can thank an improved economy and sliding gas prices.

Motorists traveling for the year-end holidays saw the cheapest gas prices since 2008, according to new figures released Sunday night by AAA. The average price for a gallon of regular unleaded was $2.43 in Florida, $2.32 in Georgia, and $2.18 in Tennessee. These prices broke the previous lows set in 2009 of $2.63 in Florida, $2.44 in Georgia, and 2.45 in Tennessee.

“Low gas prices are helping consumers save more than $21 for a tank of gasoline compared to the highs earlier this year ($3.70), and that has a positive effect on holiday shopping and travel,” said Mark Jenkins, spokesman, AAA - The Auto Club Group. “The new year will bring new expectations for even cheaper gasoline. Prices could drop another 3-6 cents by New Year’s Day.”

The national average price for a gallon of regular unleaded fell every day since September 25 to today’s average of $2.30, which is the lowest average price per gallon since May 2009. Since their respective streaks began, the average price has fallen 92 cents in Florida, $1.03 in Georgia, and 98 cents in Tennessee.

“The world’s oil supply continues to outpace demand keeping downward pressure on oil and gas prices,” Jenkins said in a statement. “Speculators believe this trend will continue next year, so cheap gasoline should stick around for a while.”

Gas prices are also forecast to be lower in 2015. The national average price for a gallon of regular unleaded will be $2.60, according to the Energy Information Administration. So far, the national average price for 2014 is $3.35.

Meanwhile, millions of fliers are expected to pass through South Florida’s airports. In South Florida, more than 1.5 million travelers are expected to pass through Hollywood-Fort Lauderdale International Airport, with the busiest days expected through Jan. 4. Miami International Airport expects more than 2.1 million passengers during the period that began last weekend and continues through Jan. 6

HOLIDAY TRAVEL TIPS

For flyers

  • Get to the airport early.
  • Leave gifts unwrapped. Ship olive oils, jams, wines and other food gifts separately or in checked luggage.
  • Register your cell number with your airline for text alerts on flight status.
  • Dress for security checks, with shoes that slip off easily and trousers that don’t require a belt.
  • 3-1-1: In carryons, liquids and gels must be smaller than 3.4 ounces and fit in a one-quart clear plastic bag. Larger amounts of medications and baby formula are allowed but must declared at the checkpoint.

For drivers

  • Check batteries and tires before you hit the road to avoid becoming one of the 1.1 million motorists who will turn to AAA for help this holiday season.
  • Keep your cell phone charged.
  • Plan your route in advance. Take a paper map to back-up technology.
  • Carry an emergency kit with flashlight, reflector, blankets, snacks and water.
  • Locate overnight roadside lodging well before dark.
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