Gas prices

Lower gas prices are delivering an early Christmas gift to motorists looking to hit the road for the holiday season after a pandemic pause last year.

In fact, gasoline is 10 cents cheaper across the nation since Thanksgiving. Even with the drop, it remains among the priciest on record, according to Gas Buddy.

The little reprieve is a welcome sight to wallets of the more than 109 million people expected to travel this year, according to AAA. It marks a dramatic bounce-back after the pandemic canceled many family festivities in 2020.

Perhaps this year, people are making up for lost time. The 27.7 million more travelers — a 34% increase — include all modes of transportation: road, planes and roadways.

The agency defines travel as going 50 miles from home from Dec. 23 to Jan. 2

“Americans who canceled their vacations in 2020 want to gather with family and friends for the holidays this year, although they will still be mindful of the pandemic and the new omicron variant,” said Paula Twidale, senior vice president of AAA Travel. “With vaccines widely available, conditions are much different and many people feel a greater level of comfort with travel.”

By Christmas, the national average of gas is predicted to keep sliding to $3.25 per gallon, according to GasBuddy. That would put it a penny away from 2013’s all-time high.

Prices are 45% higher than last year but are expected to continue falling into the new year.

“We got a Christmas gift that few should complain about: falling gas prices at a time of year when millions of Americans are spending their hard earned dollars on gifts for their loved ones,” said Patrick De Haan, head of petroleum analysis at GasBuddy. “The last thing they should have to worry about is expensive gasoline.”

In Virginia, gas prices have fallen 1.8 cents per gallon in the past week, averaging $3.17 a gallon Monday, GasBuddy reported. Gas prices in Virginia are 10.9 cents per gallon lower than a month ago but stand $1.08 per gallon higher than a year ago.

“For yet another week, average gasoline prices continue to fall as omicron cases surge, leading oil demand, and thus oil prices, to stall,” De Haan said. “The decline in gas prices will likely continue until new COVID cases slow down.”

The national average price of gasoline has fallen 2.9 cents per gallon in the last week, averaging $3.30 per gallon Monday. The national average is down 11.1 cents per gallon from a month ago and stands $1.09 a gallon higher than a year ago.

With the threat of omicron sending COVID-19 cases soaring, gas demand may take a more noticeable hit in the coming weeks, De Haan speculated.

GasBuddy is expected to release its fuel outlook for 2022 in the days ahead.