LOS ANGELES, CA--(Marketwire - December 19, 2008) - The Automobile Club of Southern California is forecasting a decline in travel among Southern Californians during the Christmas/New Year holiday period, continuing a trend seen throughout 2008.

Nearly 5.3 million Southern Californians are expected to travel during this holiday period -- a 1.9 percent decrease from last year. Of those travelers, nearly 4.5 million -- or 84 percent -- are projected to drive to their destinations, while 643,000 -- or 12 percent -- will fly. The number of auto travelers is expected to decrease by 1.5 percent, and the number of plane travelers is expected to decrease by 6.7 percent.

Statewide, nearly 8.5 million travelers are expected, and 7.15 million of them will be driving to their getaways while 1.03 million will fly. California's total holiday travel numbers are also expected to decline by nearly 2 percent.

Nationally, holiday travel is expected to decline by 2.1 percent, with 63.9 million expected to take Christmas/New Year trips of 50 miles or more. Auto travelers will make up 82 percent of that number, with 52.4 million vacationers expected to drive, while plane travelers will represent nearly 13 percent of travelers, at 8.1 million nationwide.

The decline in Christmas/New Year travel marks the fifth consecutive major holiday that has posted a decline in the number of travelers. However, even with the decline, this year's total number of holiday travelers is still the third highest number of Christmas travelers on record.

"Even with gas prices $1.50 lower than they were this time last year, the economic challenges in Southern California are definitely impacting holiday travel," said Auto Club spokesperson Jeffrey Spring. "However, lower reservation and occupancy rates mean that many people are seeking and finding some significant last-minute bargains over the Christmas/New Year travel period."

The Auto Club's No. 1 destination for Southern California holiday travelers over this period -- Las Vegas -- still has rates at AAA-rated three- and four-diamond hotels during the holidays on the Strip for less than $100 a night.

Besides Las Vegas, the other top five destinations for Southern California travelers, according to a poll of the Auto Club's AAA travel agents, are: Orange County (Disneyland and other local theme parks), Mexico (cruises and resort stays), San Diego, and San Francisco.

This week's cold and snowy conditions in many locations could make for hazardous driving conditions for many holiday travelers. The Auto Club advises auto travelers to make sure their vehicle and tires are in good condition, bring chains if needed, and call the California Highway Information Number at 1-800-427-7623 for interstate and state route lane closures and highway closures. The information is updated hourly.

Contact Information: CONTACT: Marie Montgomery Jeffrey Spring (714) 885-2333