AAA: Unemployment to limit holiday travel

Posted December 22, 2009 11:51 a.m. EST

— A high unemployment rate will combine with high gas prices to keep many North Carolina residents at home over the Christmas holiday, according to AAA Carolinas.

More than 3 million people statewide are expected to travel more than 50 miles from home between Wednesday and Jan. 3, which is down by 4.7 percent – about 150,000 people – from a year ago, according to AAA.

About 90 percent of the travelers will make the trip by car, with the remainder flying to their destination. AAA predicts that air travel will be down 5.9 percent this year, with vehicle travel down 4.2 percent.

"Our current economic conditions and future uncertainty are key components of travel expectations this year," Dave Parsons, president and chief executive of AAA Carolinas, said in a statement.

The state unemployment rate was 10.8 percent in November, compared with 7.5 percent during the same month last year.

AAA also noted that gas prices are almost $1 a gallon more expensive this holiday season than a year ago.

A gallon of unleaded regular gas costs about $2.50 in North Carolina, up 92 cents from December 2008.

Air travelers will have to contend with higher airfares, fewer flights and extra fees, AAA said, and they will also have to pack some patience because about one-quarter of the flights this year are expected to arrive late at their destinations.