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Holidays bring all-time record for California travelers

Bill Sanford holds his 14-month-old daughter Clare as he checks in for a flight at O'Hare International Airport. The two were flying to New Jersey to spend the Thanksgiving holiday with family.
Bill Sanford holds his 14-month-old daughter Clare as he checks in for a flight at O'Hare International Airport. The two were flying to New Jersey to spend the Thanksgiving holiday with family.
Scott Olson/Getty Images

A forecast predicts Southern California travelers will break two records during the holiday season, echoing the region's record-setting Thanksgiving weekend.

Nearly 7.7 million SoCal residents and 12.4 million statewide will travel at least 50 miles away from home between Dec. 23 and Jan. 2, a 1.8 percent increase compared to 2015, according to the AAA forecast released this week.

The number of people traveling by car and air is the highest in California's history, and the eighth consecutive year of growth for the season, according to the report.

Jeffrey Spring, spokesman for the Automobile Club of Southern California told KPCC he believes the increase is due to a strong economy and low gas prices — the average being $2.65 a gallon, according to the report. 

"This year has always been a popular time to travel and see family members," he said. "With the economy and low gas prices, we're just seeing more of that."

A breakdown of year-end holiday travel from the report. AAA projects 103.1 million people in the U.S. will travel at least 50 miles during the year-end holiday season.
A breakdown of year-end holiday travel from the report. AAA projects 103.1 million people in the U.S. will travel at least 50 miles during the year-end holiday season.
AAA

The most popular destinations for Southern Californians, according to the report, are Las Vegas, San Diego, San Francisco, Mexico and the Mammoth and Southern California ski areas.

Adults have more flexibility in when they can take time off. With some people taking vacation before Christmas and others after, there won't be a huge burden on the region's traffic, Spring said.

"I'd say the day before Christmas and the Friday before Christmas will be the worst," he said.

More than 627,000 local residents and 1 million Californians are expected to fly – a 4.8 percent increase over 2015, when the total number of air travelers was 598,000 in Southern California and 965,000 statewide, according to the report.

The top holiday air travel destination for Southern Californians? Hawaii.