CHICAGO (CBS) — Travel is expected to be up this holiday season, and one big reason is plummeting gas prices.

WBBM Newsradio’s Regine Schlesinger reports the AAA-Chicago Motor Club projects year-end travel will be at its highest level in six years, thanks to prices that have plunged from their peak of well over $4 a gallon during the summer.

“Prices now over a dollar lower per gallon than where they were earlier this year,” said Patrick DeHaan, senior petroleum analyst for

LISTEN: WBBM Newsradio’s Regine Schlesinger Reports

The average Chicago area price for a gallon of gas was slightly above $3.50 as of Thursday, down 20 cents from the start of the month, and well off the year’s record highs.

“Just this summer, a lot of the stations here in downtown Chicago were within, you know, a nickel or a dime of $5 a gallon,” DeHaan said.

He expects prices to keep dropping.

“The only wild card here is if refineries can continue producing at the rates, and if there’s no problems,” DeHaan said. “The problem will probably be refineries this year. Can they produce without any sort of issues, or major issues? This year, the West Coast had refining issues, we had Hurricane Sandy cause refining issues, and here in the Chicagoland area refineries were the sole reason that prices marched all the way up to $4.56 a gallon.”

Even with a recent plunge in prices, a gallon of gas is still slightly more expensive than this time last year.

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