Anyone who can get an early start on their holiday travel might want to this year.
Nearly a third of Coloradans — a record 1.8 million people — are expected to take to the roads, rails, seas and skies from Saturday through New Year’s Day, reports AAA Colorado.“Soaring consumer confidence and falling gas prices are inspiring more Coloradans than ever to travel this holiday season,” AAA Colorado spokesman Skyler McKinley said in a news release.
Among the Colorado travelers, about 1.7 million are expected to pack up the car and hit the roads, while 930,000 will travel by plane, the most in 15 years. Another 69,000 Coloradans are expected to travel by train, bus or cruise ship, AAA Colorado says.
With all the holiday vacationers, Thursday is expected to be the busiest day nationwide on highways, with 102.1 million drivers expected to be on the roads. Backups could occur in major metro areas, including Denver, and drivers should start early to avoid peak commuter times, the agency recommends.
Lower gas prices are encouraging road trips. The average cost of gasoline in Colorado averages $2.41 per gallon of regular, down 33 cents from a month ago. Colorado Springs was below the statewide average at $2.32 a gallon, along with Denver at $2.27. The highest cost — $2.85 — was in the northwest part of the state.
Through New Year’s Day, about 2.5 million travelers are expected to land and depart at Denver International Airport.
“At its peak of the holiday season, Dec. 21 and Dec. 28 are the busiest days at the airport, and plenty of flight ambassadors will be around helping people get where they need to go,” said airport spokeswoman Emily Williams.
Unseasonably mild temperatures with only a slight chance of snow Saturday night are forecast for the start of holiday travel. Highs will mostly be in the mid- to high 40s, with a high near 60 predicted on Thursday.
The chances of a white Christmas in Colorado Springs are practically nil, with sunshine and a high of 45 forecast.
Travel plans, particularly for those flying to the East Coast or driving to the Northwest could still be disrupted by bad weather. Drenching rain will move up the East Coast beginning Wednesday, affecting major travel hubs, including Philadelphia, New York, and Boston. The same storm could bring snow to the Midwest and delay flights into and out of Chicago.
Meanwhile, a chain of storms blasting the Northwest since last week will continue into early next week, with snow moving inland from the coast.