Madison (WKOW) -- from AAA: AAA projects a slight decline in the number of Americans traveling during the Christmas holiday period.
Nearly 63.9 million Americans will travel 50 miles or more from home during the Christmas holiday season, a decrease of 1.4 million travelers (2.1 percent) from last year's total of 65.3 million.
This is the first decline in Christmas holiday travelers since 2002.
AAA projected year-to-year decreases in the number of travelers for all five of the major travel holidays this year (Memorial Day, Fourth of July, Labor Day, Thanksgiving and Christmas).
Fortunately, those traveling for the holidays can expect gasoline prices and airfares below last year's levels.
In the Great Lakes region - including Wisconsin, Illinois, Indiana, Michigan and Ohio - 9.6 million people are expected to travel for the holidays, a 3.2 percent decrease from last year.
Of those, 8.2 million will go by auto (2.3 percent decrease from last year), while 800,000 other residents will travel by air (10.8 percent decrease from last year).
"As we face economic hardship in our country, people are making very conservative decisions with traditional travel habits this year," said AAA Wisconsin Regional President Tom Frymark. "Although we are facing significant challenges, friends and families alike still believe in the holiday traditions and will find less expensive and alternative ways to be together."
Wisconsin travelers will pay much less for gas this holiday season compared to last year.
According to AAA's Daily Fuel Gauge Report, today's state average of $1.74 for a gallon of regular unleaded is eight cents more than today's national average, but $1.22 less than the state average a year ago.
Because of the economic situation of our country, gas prices are not the only portion of Americans' travel budgets less expensive this holiday season, according to AAA's Leisure Travel Index.
The average price for an airline ticket is down 9 percent for travel during the week of Christmas and hotel rates are down 3 percent, when compared to Christmas a year ago.
Car rental rates are up 2 percent as compared to Christmas 2007.
Research for Christmas-New Year's holiday travel is based on a national web survey of 2,300 adults by the Travel Industry Association supplemented by an additional 5,000 Americans surveyed from the top 10 states of origin in the United States.