More than 12 million Californians will hit the road or head to the airport for the holidays this year, part of a nationwide holiday travel surge not seen since at least 2001, according to the Automobile Club of Southern California.
Thanks to reduced gas prices, unemployment and an uptick in household net worth, more than 94.8 million people are expected to travel between Dec. 23 and Jan. 4, AAA said in a news release. That's a 4% increase from last year and a record since the company began keeping track in 2001.
Within the national estimates, California residents make up a large portion of that total. An estimated 12.2 million Californians are expected to travel, more than 10.8 million of them by car, AAA said.
Here are the stats for the Southland:
-- 6.72 million will drive, a 3.4% increase from 2013
-- 597,000 will fly, a 0.5% increase from 2013.
This also will be the first year since 2009 that the average cost of a gallon of gas is less than $3 in Southern California, AAA said.
"Historically, the year-end holiday period is the most popular holiday time of the year for vacations, and even during the recession years, we saw relatively small declines in the number of travelers because of their priority to visit friends and family," said Filomena Andrea, AAA's vice president of travel products. "This year, in addition to a new record number of travelers, we are also experiencing increased interest in getaways that allow families and friends to spend time together in a vacation destination."
Los Angeles International Airport announced it is expecting almost 3 million passengers between Dec. 19 and Jan. 2. The busiest days will be Dec. 22, 23, 26 and 29, when more than 211,000 passengers a day will pass through the airport.
Trade association Airlines for America predicts LAX will be the second-busiest airport in the United States during the holiday period, after Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International.