A sting in the tail-pipe this Christmas holiday

Petrol prices are tipped to jump during the busiest period on Australian roads, and millions of Aussies are about to feel the pinch as they head out the door for a Christmas driving holiday.

Unleaded fuel is expected to crack $1.50 per litre during the Christmas break, soaring 30-40 cents above the mid-year average.

Meanwhile the total number of road trips taken by Australians in the December quarter alone is expected to hit 17 million, compared with 10 million overseas trips for the entire year.

With so many hitting the road, the price of fuel is making a growing impact on the household Christmas budget.

"Motorists may need to get used to paying higher prices for petrol in the lead-up to the summer peak driving holiday season," CommSec senior economist Ryan Felsman told Domain.

"We are at another peak in the price cycle in these cities."

More specifically, the average weekly household expenditure devoted to paying petrol is currently $44.39 per week, or 2.8 per cent of the total budget - but that will be pushed noticeably higher over the Christmas break, according to Mr Felsman.

Not all experts have been doom-saying the Christmas petrol prices, however, with NAB previously forecasting a much more modest $1.30 per litre come Christmas and all through next year.

Retailers now claim a margin of 18-19 cents per litre, according to CommSec researchers, but it's far from a big-business conspiracy to compound budget blowouts during an already expensive time of year, petrol-tracker Motormouth said.

"We have found, time and again, that the retail prices simply follow their usual pattern unless these rhythms are impacted by other market triggers," a Motormouth spokesperson said, adding that data shows petrol prices did indeed trend higher in November.

The petrol pain is likely to be focused on family budgets rather than on younger, single Aussies, according to University of Technology Sydney tourism expert David Beirman.

"Singles tend to travel overseas, a lot of families tend to travel in Australia and a lot of people who travel in Australia go to the beach and go there by driving."

Driving holidays would continue to grow in popularity, Mr Beirman said, as the Australian dollar dictated the cost of heading overseas and news of international terrorist attacks caused families to consider the safety of out-of-city vacations.

"If you look at the places where people travel, they tend to go to locations where the Aussie dollar gives them bang for their buck."

This Christmas, at least, bang for buck is being lost into the petrol tank.

This story A sting in the tail-pipe this Christmas holiday first appeared on The Sydney Morning Herald.