Christmas Getaway: $3 Gas, More Travelers

VIDEO: Linsey Davis on what to expect when traveling on the roads and in the air.
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Drivers heading home for Christmas are likely to find an unpleasant holiday surprise at the gas pump: national prices that are now averaging $3 a gallon for the first time since October 2008, according to a survey commissioned by AAA.

That's nearly 40 cents a gallon higher than last year at this time, or around $3 extra for a 100-mile trip each way to visit grandma.

And for those heading to the skies, this might be their first encounter with the Transportation Security Administration's new pat-down rules, which caught plenty of attention right before Thanksgiving.

Remember that only those who refuse the full-body imaging scanners or somehow set off the standard metal detectors are subject to the pat-downs. So remove all metal objects from your pockets long before you get to the front of the line.

No matter how you are traveling -- car, train, bus, plane or ferry -- expect more company on your trip. AAA projects 92.3 million Americans will travel 50 miles or more from home during the year-end holidays, an increase of 3.1 percent from last year. As on every major holiday, the vast majority of travelers -- 93 percent -- will be drivers.

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AAA said rates for hotels it rates as three-diamond lodgings are five percent higher than a year ago, with travelers spending an average of $125 per night compared to $119. Travelers planning to stay at AAA two-diamond hotels can expect to pay two percent more at an average cost of $88 per night. Airfares are expected to be three percent less than last year, with an average lowest round-trip rate of $174 for the top 40 U.S. air routes. Weekend daily car rental rates will remain unchanged at an average of $50.

Winter weather is not going to cooperate for all travelers. Flights in and out of Europe have been delayed or canceled all week by bad weather. Those who did make it, didn't always make it with their bags. In the U.S., meanwhile, a separate storm front is threatening to cause delays in the Southeast and the East Coast over the weekend.

Delta Air Lines is already allowing travelers to and from Atlanta, Baltimore, Boston, Newark, New York and Washington to make changes to flights at no cost. However, since most flights these days are fully booked, it could be days until travelers find an alternative flight.

Then there is the constant threat of terrorism.

The White House offered a new warning yesterday of a possible -- though unspecified -- threat of attack by Al Qaeda. The caution echoed a weeks' worth of warnings from law enforcement authorities.

It was exactly a year ago that 23-year-old Abdul Farouk Abdulmutallab tried to blow up a Northwest Airlines flight from Amsterdam to Detroit with explosives hidden in his underwear.

Christmas Terror Theats

Those terrorism jitters have already led to a few false alarms that have delayed plenty of passengers.

On Tuesday morning, Lafayette Regional Airport in Louisiana was shut down and evacuated, all because of a frozen chicken and a headlamp.

A frozen chicken stuffed with crawfish was packed next to a miner's headlamp in a package, and screeners looking at X-rays of it were unable to determine what the odd object was. To make matters worse, wires attached to the headlamp led them to think it might be a bomb.

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