Photo by John Schreiber.

The 2017 year-end holiday travel season will set an all-time record for the number of Southern California travelers because of favorable economic conditions, according to the Automobile Club of Southern California.

Nearly 8.2 million Southern California residents and 13.2 million statewide are expected to travel at least 50 miles away from home during the holiday period between Dec. 23 and Jan. 1 — a 3.6 percent increase from the 2016 holiday, the Auto Club said in a statement.

The vast majority of Southern California travelers — 7.2 million from Southern California and 11.7 million statewide, or 89 percent of all travelers — will go by car to their destinations, representing a 3.5 percent increase from last year’s Christmas-New Year’s Day holiday, it said.  More than 665,000 local residents and nearly 1.1 million Californians are expected to fly, a 5.5 percent increase over 2016.

Additionally, more than 260,000 Southern Californians and 425,000 statewide will travel by bus, train, cruise or other means to holiday destinations for a 1.6 percent increase over last year.

Nationally, the Auto CluB projects 107 million travelers over the Christmas-New Year’s Day holiday, topping last year’s 104 million end-of-year travelers by 3.1 percent.

This marks the ninth consecutive year of growth for end-of-year holiday travel, The Auto Club said.

“Holiday travelers who booked ahead saved on air fares, which were about 20 percent lower than for this time last year, and on hotel rates, which were slightly cheaper than for last year’s holiday,” said Filomena Andre, the Auto Club’s vice president for travel products and services. “Economic health and some lower travel costs are giving consumers more opportunities to enjoy ‘big ticket’ vacations during the holidays and throughout the year.”

Southern California gas prices have been dropping for more than a month, but are still more than 40 cents higher per gallon than at this time last year. While that extra cost adds about $6 to an average tank fill-up, the Auto Club said it expects little impact on holiday travel.

The top five destinations for Southern California travelers, according to a poll of Auto Club travel agents, are: 1) San Francisco  2) San Diego 3) Palm Springs  4) Mexico and 5) Las Vegas. Hawaii is the top air destination for Southern California travelers this holiday. Nationally, Anaheim ranks as the No. 2 destination for travelers this holiday.

—City News Service

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