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Originally published Wednesday, December 14, 2011 at 12:07 PM

90 million Americans on the road for Christmas

AAA forecasts the second busiest Christmas travel period of the past decade.

By Susan Gilmore; Seattle Times

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More than 90 million Americans will travel at least 50 miles from home during the Christmas holiday, a 1.4 percent increase over last year.

The predicted travel is the second highest in the past decade.

Of the travelers, 91 percent will drive, which AAA said is tied to lower gas prices. That's a 2 percent increase compared to last year. The average price of unleaded gasoline in Washington is $3.52 a gallon, down 23 cents in the past month. Nationally, gas prices average $3.26 a gallon, said AAA.

AAA predicts air travel will decrease nearly 10 percent over Christmas, due to costs and fewer seats. According to AAA, holiday airfares are expected to be 21 percent higher than last year, with an average lowest round-trip rate of $210 for the top 40 U.S. routes. This is the highest holiday average airfare in the past five years.

Other modes of travel, trains, buses and watercraft, will increase 4.2 percent over last year.

AAA also forecasts that hotel rates will increase slightly and rental car prices will be slightly lower over Christmas.

The average distance traveled by Americans during the Christmas-New Year's holiday is expected to be 726 miles, a decline from last year when travelers averaged 1,052 miles. That's linked to the decrease in air travel, said AAA. Median spending is expected to be $718, a three percent increase from last year

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