A record 12.3 million California residents -- 7.6 million of them from Southern California -- will travel 50 miles or more between Dec. 23 and Jan. 3, according to the Automobile Club of Southern California.
Los Angeles International Airport officials, meanwhile, said they expect a record 3.5 million passengers to pass through the airport during the holiday travel season that begins Friday and ends Jan. 3, up 7.9 percent from last year. That would make LAX the nation's busiest over the holidays, officials said.
The Auto Club's estimate of 12.3 million travelers statewide represents a 1.3 percent over 2014.
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Eighty-nine percent of travelers, or 6.8 million Southern Californians and 10.9 million statewide, will travel by car -- also a 1.3 percent increase from last year, according to the Auto Club. More than 598,000 local residents and 965,000 Californians are expected to fly, which is a 0.4 percent increase over 2014.
The most popular destinations for Southern Californians over this Christmas-New Year holiday, according to a poll of Auto Club AAA Travel agents, are, in this order, Las Vegas, San Francisco, San Diego, Arizona and Mexico.
Officials at LAX, meanwhile, said they expect the busiest days for passengers will be Dec. 30 (232,000 passengers), Dec. 23 (226,000 passengers), Monday (224,000) and Dec. 27 (220,000).
Christmas Day will be the slowest day, with 179,000 passengers, while 180,000 are expected on New Year's Eve and 186,000 on Christmas Eve and New Year's Day. The average daily passenger volume at LAX is 193,000. Airport officials said passengers should arrive early over the holiday season and expect crowded terminals and domestic flights at 90 percent capacity.
Nationally, the Auto Club projected that the number of travelers will top 100 million for the first time in the 21st century, increasing by 1.4 percent compared to last year's Christmas-New Year holiday.
This year marks the seventh consecutive year of growth for end-of-year holiday travel. The organization also said that the Southern California contingent will be the highest number this century.
Gas prices will be drastically lower over the holiday season than 2014 in most areas of the country. But the savings over last year will not be as great in Southern California, where the current average price of $2.75 a gallon in the Los Angeles area is only 15 cents lower than at this time last year.
Gas prices are not dropping as quickly locally due to a refinery outage in Torrance that continues to affect supply. Nationwide, the average gas price is around $2 a gallon.
The Auto Club's analysis of average hotel, air and car rental expenses for this year's holiday season shows that average airfares from Los Angeles to several popular destinations will be mostly lower than at this time last year, but hotel rates at AAA 3 Diamond properties are up by an average of 4 percent, and car rental rates at popular destinations are up an average of 3 percent over 2014.
While year-end holiday travel will be spread out over a number of days, the Auto Club advises travelers that local freeways beginning this weekend will likely be more congested with holiday travelers.