Gas prices are higher and the economy is bad. But Missourians and other Americans are hitting the road for the Christmas weekend.

“We’re anticipating some 87.7 million folks are going to be on trips over 50 miles from home, that’s an increase of 3.8 percent over last year the roadways will be busy,” said AAA Missouri’s Mike Right in an interview with the Missourinet. “We’re anticipating about 78 million of those folks are going to be travelling by motor vehicle, and motor vehicle will be up about four and a half percent from what it was this same time last year.”

Gas prices average about $2.59 nationally – up about 90 cents a gallon from a year ago. In Missouri we’re up from about $1.50 last year to $2.37 this year. While prices are up they have leveled off and that makes Americans more secure and willing to travel.

“Last year at this time was a real anomaly,” said Right. “You may recall that it was in 2008 that we had record high prices in many areas of the country north of $4.00 a gallon in the July-August period.”

And when Americans get behind the wheel most of them will be headed to see friends and family.

“I would say that the majority of folks are going to headed to friends and relatives as opposed to taking advantage of the holiday season for a vacation, although there will be huge numbers of those, as well,” said Right. “We’re anticipating the average round trip over the holiday period to be almost about 800 miles.”

Right says even with a poor economy many Americans are accustomed to Thanksgiving and Christmas travel and plan to carry on the tradition.

Audio: Steve Walsh report (:60 MP3)