By Dave Smith
21st Space Wing Public Affairs staff writer
PETERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. — While many of us will stay home, many others will travel far and wide to visit friends, family or just to get away during the holiday season.
Whether you decide to take a short drive or a long flight, a few considerations will help make a more pleasant trip.
One reason more people are traveling this year is due to a longer holiday season according to AAA. Between Dec. 23 and Jan. 4, AAA forecasts nearly 97 million Americans will make trips longer than 50 miles in distance. That number is the highest since the company started keeping records in 2001. The 13-day season is the longest since 2008 and the extra day is partially responsible for a 10 percent increase over the average for the last dozen years. The longer season allows travelers more options in selecting departure and return dates, according to the forecast.
The longer season does not really apply to the military however.
“For us it goes from about Dec. 20 to about Jan. 3,” said Theresa Schonka, travel specialist in the Peterson Leisure Travel Office.Regardless of the difference in travel seasons, Schonka said she sees more people taking trips this year. “Yes, I would say so. There are definitely more people traveling this year,” she said.
Another reason more people are choosing to travel for the holidays this year is because gas prices are much lower than last year, nearly 70 cents per gallon lower on average than at the same time last year. Those prices are mainly responsible for 91 percent of holiday travelers getting behind the wheel and driving to their destinations.
“If they have the time to drive they can definitely save money if they have a family of four or so,” Schonka said. “With gas lower they are sure to save money.”
Driving to a holiday destination may save money, but some statistics caution that too much holiday celebration could turn out badly: During the holidays AAA said there is one alcohol-impaired death every 45 minutes.
Airlines are expecting a 6 percent increase of people flying this holiday season. However, those flyers will most likely not enjoy reduced ticket prices because of lower fuel prices.
“No, there won’t be lower airfares,” she said. “It’s because for holiday travel, a peak time, you always pay according to availability. If you bought tickets way early it could be less because there was greater availability.”
The idea of traveling home for the holidays is often a romanticized idea, but unless all of those travelers are from the same area, reality shows a more practical pattern.
“The trend is usually the same: warm and tropical,” Schonka said. “And if they are not doing warm and tropical like Mexico and the Caribbean, it’s Disney because that is where we have really big discounts. We do more leisure travel, more vacation stuff because we have more discounts for that. That’s what people are taking advantage of.”
National trends reflect the same thing. Tripcase.com shows the U.S. airports with the biggest changes in activity during the holidays — more than 4 percent of total annual traffic during the season — are almost all in warm climates. Hawaii and Florida had four airports each on the top 10 list, California one.
Though it is a bit late to make holiday flight plans and expect to get a low fare, Schonka encourages a call to her office.
“Sometimes we can get a military discount for active-duty on domestic flights, but they won’t be as good as they would have earlier,” she said. “Still call us, we may be able to do something for you.”
For more information about the Peterson Leisure Travel Office call 556-2116 or 556-6447.