As the holiday season ramps up, Americans planning road trips might face an unexpected hurdle: surging gas prices. The American Automobile Association (AAA) reported a significant 0.6% increase in gas prices on Wednesday, the largest one-day jump since August, with an average gallon now costing $3.097. This spike aligns with escalating crude oil prices, partly fueled by risks to crude-laden tankers in the Red Sea.
In the energy markets, West Texas Intermediate, a key benchmark for oil prices, saw fluctuations before settling at $73.66 in the afternoon New York time, while Brent crude dipped slightly to $79.14 a barrel.
The timing of this surge in gas prices is critical, as AAA projects that around 115 million Americans are set to travel during the Christmas and New Year period. This figure represents the second-highest year-end travel volume since 2000 when AAA started tracking holiday travel data. Notably, an estimated 103.6 million travelers are expected to journey by car, marking a 1.8% increase from last year.
For those hitting the highways, December 23 and December 28 are anticipated to be the busiest travel days, as per transportation analytics firm INRIX. “Drivers nationwide could see travel times extended by up to 20% due to holiday congestion,” said Bob Pishue, a transportation analyst at INRIX. He added that in major metropolitan areas like Denver, Minneapolis, and Washington, DC, the delays could be nearly double the usual.
To mitigate the impact of these travel delays, Pishue advises drivers to avoid peak commuting hours and leverage traffic apps, local Department of Transportation notifications, and 511 services. These tools can be crucial in helping travelers navigate through busy roads with minimal frustration.
As families and friends gear up for their holiday getaways, the spike in gas prices serves as a reminder to plan and budget accordingly for this year’s travel expenses. With congestion expected on the roads and gas prices on the rise, a little preparation can go a long way in ensuring a smooth and enjoyable holiday journey.