There will be a record number of U.S. travelers this holiday season, according to a AAA holiday forecast.
Nationwide, 98.6 million are expected to travel at least 50 miles Dec. 23-Jan. 4, a 4 percent increase from a year ago. In New England, a similar uptick -- 3.9 percent — is projected.
In a statement, Lloyd Albert, AAA Southern New England senior vice president of public and government affairs, pointed to increased consumer confidence and lower gas prices as possible causes behind the travel uptick. As of Monday, gas prices averaged $2.39 nationally, and $2.57 in Massachusetts — down significantly since the summer.
"It seems more Americans are looking forward with increasing consumer confidence, rather than look back at the recession," Albert said in the statement. "This is helping to drive expected travel volumes to the highest level we have seen for the year-end holidays."
But, AAA Southern New England spokeswoman Mary Maguire says, with Christmas falling on a Thursday, the travel rush on the roads is likely to be spread out, at least.
Still, Maguire anticipates "some really heavy travel on the roadways [Tuesday night], especially given the fact that we have a forecast of heavy rain [Wednesday]."
In his Tuesday morning forecast, WBUR meteorologist David Epstein said there is a chance of a thunderstorm both Wednesday and Wednesday night.
Gusty winds could cause isolated problems.
"Winds will increase on Christmas Eve and be quite gusty at times in Thursday," Epstein wrote. "I don't expect the winds to be strong enough to create major power outages, but some places could see a downed tree or two causing isolated issues."
Temperatures will be mild throughout the week, reaching as high as 55 to 60 on Thursday.