Americans pile into cars in record numbers for holiday travel

Children in the backseat of a minivan as they prepare for their holiday travels. Photo: CBS News

The vast majority of holiday travelers — more than 90 million — will be driving, and much cheaper gas prices will drive the costs of the holiday trips down.

At a rest stop in Ridgefield, New Jersey, the Wolfe family of six from Brookhaven, Mississippi, told CBS News that they’ve already logged 18 hours on the road.

Dad Nick Wolfe says their final stop is Vermont.

“Everybody is doing great. We had a DVD installed in the van, so we have been watching a lot of movies. It’s been great.”

For Alex Sphere and his family from Boston,highway driving has been great for the wallet, even if it means nearly running out of gas.

“We tried to make it to New Jersey without stopping so we could get the cheaper gas prices in New Jersey than New York, so we are running on just about empty,” Sphere said.

According to AAA, the record 91 million people hitting the road is nearly 2 million more than last year.

Cheap gas may be fueling the increase. They are at an average $2 a gallon, down 37 cents from last year. A family of five driving a minivan from New York to Miami is paying just $130 one way — a savings of $80 compared to just two years ago.

“This is the seventh year in a row more people are travelling than the year before. As the economy improves incrementally, we’re seeing the number of people traveling increases incrementally,” said Robert Sinclair of AAA.

But not everyone is driving; some are opting for more expensive train tickets to reach their holiday destination.

At New York’s Penn Station — one of Amtrak’s busiest hubs — National Guard soldiers and bomb sniffing dogs walked among the growing crowd.

Jane Rennyson and her family were among passengers boarding at Penn Station for an 8-hour trip to Virginia. They are part of the more than three million others traveling this holiday by train or bus.

“We just didn’t want to get in the car and deal with the headache of traffic. And the train — you can get up, walk around, have a snack, play cards, it’s great,” Rennyson said.

For drivers wanting to avoid the holiday hassle of jammed roads, AAA says the best days to travel are Christmas day and New Year’s Day.

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