A record 614,000 Idahoans are planning a holiday trip this year

BOISE – (December 19, 2019) – Falling gas prices are putting Idahoans in the holiday spirit.  According to AAA, Gem State prices have dropped 18 cents since the beginning of December – a welcome savings for the many families planning a road trip in the coming days.

A record 116 million Americans will travel 50 miles or more from home for the holidays this year, and 614,000 Idahoans will be among them, according to new projections by AAA.  That’s four million more than last year, and many of them will be on the road.

“Gas prices didn’t drop in October and mid-November as we would normally expect, partly because demand remained high and regional refineries had extra downtime with maintenance issues,” says AAA Idaho spokesman Matthew Conde.  “But lately there has been a nice course correction.  Refineries are back up to a 96 percent utilization rate, and gasoline stocks in the region are slowly building, both of which help to keep prices down.  Although there may be a slowdown right before Christmas, we believe this trend will continue through the rest of the year.”

Today, the U.S. average price for regular is $2.55, which is a nickel cheaper than a month ago, but 18 cents higher than a year ago.  In Idaho, the current average price is $2.77, which is 22 cents cheaper than a month ago and five cents more expensive than a year ago.

Here’s a seven-year retrospective on Christmas gas prices:

Currently, the West Texas Intermediate benchmark for crude oil is trading near $61 a barrel.  The cheapest price for crude oil this year was $45/bbl on January 1, and the most expensive was $66/bbl on April 24.  Effective January 1, 2020, OPEC will expand its production cuts by 500,000 barrels per day among member nations, and Saudi Arabia will voluntarily cut an additional 400,000 barrels, in an effort to reduce global supply and put upward pressure on oil prices.  AAA will continue to closely monitor the crude oil and petroleum markets.

“Normally, the busiest travel days are the 22nd and 23rd of December, but this year the travel volume may get started a little sooner,” Conde explained.  “People who have the 23rd and 24th off will start leaving town as soon as Friday afternoon.  Traffic congestion could really pick up tomorrow, as some travelers try to get an early jump on their vacation during the evening commute.”

Sunday, December 22 and Monday, December 23 are still projected to be the busiest days at the airport.  No matter when they fly, travelers should arrive earlier than usual to get through security lines at the airport.


AAA roadside advice

According to AAA’s historical data, about 827,000 motorists nationwide will need roadside assistance during the holiday travel period, including more than 1,600 Idahoans.  Drivers can still complete a pre-trip inspection (if necessary, with a trusted mechanic) to catch many common automotive issues before they leave town, including underinflated tires and a weak battery.

AAA also recommends that drivers pack extra food, water, layered clothing, and a basic emergency kit that includes a flashlight with extra batteries, a fully charged cell phone with additional mobile power, a first aid kit, flares or emergency reflectors, jumper cables, and something to restore traction, such as sand or kitty litter.  Clothing options should not restrict the driver’s movement.