AAA: Year-end holiday travel expected to increase for fifth consecutive yearby jmaloni
94.5 million Americans expected to take a trip this holiday season
AAA projects 94.5 million Americans will journey 50 miles or more from home during the year-end holiday season, an increase of 0.6 percent from the 94 million people who traveled last year. This upward trend marks the fifth consecutive year of increases and the highest travel volume recorded for the season. The year-end holiday period is defined as Saturday, Dec. 21, to Wednesday, Jan. 1.
Highlights from AAA's year-end holidays travel forecast include:
- Holiday travel to total 94.5 million, an increase of 0.6 percent from the 94 million who traveled last year.
- Year-end holiday travel is expected to increase for the fifth consecutive year, reaching a new high since data has been collected by AAA, over two decades.
- Ninety-one percent of travelers or 85.8 million to travel by automobile, an increase of 0.9 percent.
- Nearly 30 percent (29.7) of all Americans will take a trip this holiday, with more than one in four (27 percent) taking a road trip.
- Holiday air travel is expected to decline slightly to 5.53 million travelers from 5.61 last year.
- Median spending expected to increase slightly to $765, compared to $759 last year.
"While economic growth has stagnated and consumer confidence has fallen, AAA is projecting more Americans to travel than ever before to gather with friends and family, exchange presents and ring in the New Year," said Tony Spada, president and CEO of AAA Western and Central New York. "The year-end holiday season remains the least volatile of holidays as travelers will not let the condition of the economy affect their plans to celebrate."
Gasoline prices near 2013 lows
Gas prices have climbed slightly from the multiyear low of $3.18 per gallon on Nov. 12, but AAA expects most drivers will pay some of the lowest prices of the year when filling up during the holiday season.
Automobile travel remains dominant mode of transportation, air travel decreases
Approximately 91 percent of travelers or 85.8 million people plan to travel by automobile during the year-end holidays. This is a 0.9 percent increase over the 85.1 million people who traveled by auto last year. Air travel is expected to decrease 1.4 percent as 5.53 million holiday travelers will take to the skies. Approximately 3.13 million travelers will choose other modes of transportation, including rail, bus and cruise ship.
Hotel rates relatively flat, airfares slightly lower, car rental rates increase 13 percent
According to AAA's Leisure Travel Index, hotel rates for AAA Three Diamond lodgings are expected to average $138 per night compared to $142 last year. AAA Two Diamond hotels will cost an average of $102 per night, compared to $101 in 2012. During Christmas week, the average lowest round-trip airfare is $199 for the top 40 U.S. air routes compared to $204 last year. Weekend daily car rental rates average $63, compared to $55 last year.
Average travel distance increases
The average distance traveled is expected to be 805 miles, which is an increase of 45 miles from last year when travelers logged 760 miles.
Median spending increases slightly; visiting family, dining and shopping top activities
Median spending is expected to be $765 up from $759 last year. Visiting with friends and family (74 percent), dining (70 percent) and shopping (51 percent) will be the most popular activities.
"With nine in 10 holiday travelers driving to their destinations, we urge motorists to be extra diligent about the dangers of distracted and impaired driving - particularly when holiday partygoers may risk getting behind the wheel after a festive evening," Spada said.
As upstate New York's largest member services organization, AAA provides nearly 860,000 members with travel, insurance, financial and automotive-related services. Since its founding in 1900, AAA has been a leading advocate for the safety and security of all travelers. Visit AAA at www.AAA.com.