For many, getting ready for the holidays also means packing suitcases and catching a plane or filling the gasoline tank and hitting the road.
Nationwide, travel is expected to increase by 1.6 percent this Christmas, with 93.3 million Americans traveling 50 miles or more from home between Saturday and Jan. 1, AAA predicts. Of those, 84.4 million will drive, 5.6 million will fly, and 3.27 million will go by other means, including bus, train, cruise ship or multiple methods.
Travelers often are unwilling to give up visiting family for Christmas, resulting in a stable travel volume, AAA says.
“The year-end holiday season remains the least volatile of all travel holidays as Oklahomans will not let economic conditions or high gas prices dictate if they go home for the holidays or kick off the New Year with a vacation,” said Chuck Mai, a spokesman for AAA Oklahoma.
“Primary economic indicators all show modest improvement from last year, and AAA is projecting an increase in the number of Americans stuffing their stockings with airline tickets and hotel reservations.”
A recent drop in gasoline prices will be a treat for those taking a road trip, which includes 800,500 Oklahomans, with the state's average price for a gallon of regular unleaded at $3 a gallon Tuesday and expected to drop below $3 a gallon for the first time since February 2011. At many metro area stations, gasoline was hovering in the $2.80 range.
Motorists may want to watch out for winter weather as varying forecasts show a white Christmas possible in parts of the region.
“The whole world wants a white Christmas except those who work at an airport,” said Alexis Higgins, a spokeswoman for Tulsa International Airport, when asked about the possibility of snow this year. Winter weather even in other states could cause flight delays in Oklahoma.
Airport prepares for holidays
Will Rogers World Airport expects 80,000 passengers to pass through its doors this week; Thursday and Friday are the anticipated busiest days. With Christmas on a Tuesday this year, many people are off work the Monday before and plan to get a jump on the long weekend as soon as they are able, said Karen Carney, a spokeswoman for the airport.
“We'll be seeing the same trend after Christmas,” she said. “A lot of people will travel back the day after, but we'll see Thursday and Friday busy too.”
Airlines are predicting full flights, and airport workers encourage travelers to arrive in plenty of time to handle lines at the ticket counter and security checkpoints.
Carney urges Will Rogers World Airport patrons to pay close attention to parking because the hourly lot is temporarily relocated to the first floor of the five-story garage, next to the surface lot. The remaining spaces in both five-story garages are for long-term parking, and drivers who park long-term in the short-term area will receive a more expensive bill.
Also, people picking up passengers are not allowed to park or wait at the curb outside the terminal, Carney stressed. Visitors should use hourly parking or the cellphone waiting areas until the passenger is at the curb.
Air travel tips