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Holiday travelers expected to total a record-breaking 100 million

More than 100 million Americans, or one-third, will travel over the holiday, according to an AAA forecast. The record-breaking total will mark the seventh consecutive year of travel growth during the holiday season.

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A Swiss Airlines plane preparing to land at Cointrin airport in Geneva March 20, 2012. Rising incomes and low gas prices are expected to spur a recording breaking 100M American travelers this holiday season.

Denis Balibouse/Reuters/File

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‘Tis the season for holiday travel, according to the American Automobile Association (AAA). 

More than 100 million, or one-third, of Americans are expected to take to the roads and the sky this holiday season,according to  a forecast released Tuesday by the auto club. This marks the first time the number of anticipated travelers will break the 100 million mark since AAA started keeping track.

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AAA cites two reasons for the surge: Americans have a little more money in their pockets, and fuel is cheap. 

“Rising incomes and low gas prices are helping to fill stockings this year, and more people than ever will choose to spend those savings on travel this year,” said Marshall Doney, AAA President and CEO, in a company press release

The 2015 holiday season marks the seventh consecutive year of holiday travel growth. The forecast’s exact estimate is 100.5 million American travelers – a growth of 1.4 percent from last year. Travelers are defined as people who travel more than 50 miles from their homes between Dec. 23 and Jan. 3.

Gas prices in November averaged $2.14 per gallon across the US. Driving will remain the most popular means of transportation for travelers, with 90.8 percent of travelers (91.3 million) driving to their destinations, according to the forecast. An estimated 5.7 percent of the travelers will be flying, and 3.4 percent will be find other means to arrive at their holiday destinations.

Airfare also is lower this season than previous years, with the average roundtrip ticket costing $174, the auto club predicts. However, hotel costs have risen around 4 percent – an average price of $150 per night in a AAA Three Diamond Rated hotel.

“Disposable income is expected to increase 3.1 percent as wages rise and prices remain flat,” the AAA Year-End Travel Forecast states. The forecast also estimates the unemployment rate will have fallen 0.6 points lower than last year.

Additionally, the average hourly earnings were estimated to have risen by 2.3 percent over the last year, according to a November Labor Department report. The unemployment rate is recorded as falling an annual amount of 0.8 percent.

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“The holidays are a time for joining with friends and family, and the record number of people traveling this holiday should make for a joyous travel season,” said Mr. Doney in the press release.