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There will be a record number of holiday travelers next week, report says

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If you're traveling over the holidays, you won't be alone.

An estimated 98.6 million Americans will be traveling at least 50 miles over the year-end holiday period (Dec. 23-Jan. 4), according to AAA's holiday travel forecast, which is a 4 percent increase from last year. That would be a record for the holiday period, AAA notes.

Nearly 91 percent of all travelers will hit the roads, and lucky for them gas prices are 69 cents cheaper than this time last year. The national average is $2.55 per gallon, AAA says, while the average in Minnesota is $2.359 ($2.349 in the Twin Cities), according to Gas Buddy, and prices are trending downward.

There will also be an increased number of people traveling by air, with 5.7 million travelers taking to the skies.

Marshall Doney, president and CEO at AAA, said in a news release that the improving economy as well as lower gas prices are contributing to the number of travelers.

That, along with the way the holidays fall – Christmas Day and New Year's Day fall on Thursdays this year, which is making the holiday travel season a day longer than last year and the longest since 2008, AAA says, which allows more people to fit holiday travel into their schedules.

Weather may affect travel

The weather forecast is looking a little dicey next week.

Anyone traveling this weekend, before the official year-end holiday travel season begins, shouldn't have trouble in Minnesota – the forecast shows a relatively calm weekend.

But on Monday, a low-pressure system is moving in which will bring rain, sleet and snow to the Upper Midwest. Paul Huttner wrote on MPR News' Updraft blog that weather could pose some travel issues from Monday through to Christmas Eve.

Huttner says if holiday plans call for traveling east toward Wisconsin or Chicago Monday and Tuesday you may want to considering leaving Sunday instead.

People traveling to the East Coast could also see some problems. AccuWeather says models show strong winds and heavy rains Tuesday into Wednesday, while snow is possible in the Upper Midwest, including Chicago, Detroit and Indianapolis.

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