Volume for busy year-end holidays up 4 percent from 2013
AAA projects 98.6 million Americans will journey 50 miles or more from home during the year-end holiday season, an increase of 4 percent from the 94.8 million people who traveled last year. This upward trend marks the highest forecast growth rate for the year-end holiday season since 2009, and the highest travel volume for the holiday period on record. (AAA data dates back to 2001.) The year-end holiday period is defined as Tuesday, Dec. 23, to Sunday, Jan. 4.
Highlights from 2014-15 Year-End Holiday Travel Forecast
•Holiday travel is expected to total 98.6 million, an increase of 4 percent from the 94.8 million who traveled last year.
•Travel volume for the year-end holidays will reach the highest peak recorded by AAA (since 2001).
•Nearly 91 percent of all travelers (89.5 million) will celebrate the holidays with a road trip, an increase of 4.2 percent from 2013.
•Air travel will account for 6 percent of all travelers (5.7 million), and is forecast to grow 1 percent from 2013.
•The remaining 3 percent (3.4 million) will travel by other modes, including rail, bus and cruise.
•Low gas prices continue to help boost disposable income this holiday season, with today's national average price of gas at $2.52 per gallon (70 cents less than a year ago).
"This year, more Americans will travel and join friends and family to celebrate the holidays and ring in the new year than ever before," said Tony Spada, president and CEO of AAA Western and Central New York. "It seems more Americans are looking forward with increasing consumer confidence, rather than looking back at the recession. This is helping to drive expected travel volumes to the highest level we have seen for the year-end holidays."
The lowest national gas prices since 2009 also are increasing disposable income and enabling families to set aside money for travel this year. The calendar is having a positive effect on the number of travelers expected this year, too. This year, the holidays land on a Thursday, creating a 13-day holiday travel season that is one day longer than last year's and the longest since 2008, offering travelers more options for departures and return trips. This flexibility makes it possible for more people to fit holiday travel into their schedules.
•Impact of gasoline prices on travel plans: Today's national average price of gasoline is at the lowest level in five years and 70 cents lower than last year, a welcome gift for holiday travelers. Gas prices have fallen for 82 days in a row, helping to increase Americans' disposable income 3.5 percent from year-ago levels, which has had a positive effect on travel.
Drivers in Buffalo are currently paying $2.99 a gallon, down from $3.64 last year.
•Hotel, car rental rates rise modestly: AAA's Leisure Travel Index states hotel rates for AAA Three Diamond lodgings are expected to increase 4 percent from one year ago with travelers spending an average of $143 per night compared to $138 last year. AAA Two Diamond hotel rates will rise 5 percent with an average cost of $108 per night. Daily car rental rates will average $66, 4 percent higher than last year.
•Airfares fall 7 percent this year, driven by low-cost carriers: Average discounted round-trip airfares across 40 top domestic routes are expected to fall 7 percent this year, to $186. This is influenced by the availability of discounted rates from low-cost carriers in several top markets. AAA encourages travelers to consider the full cost of a ticket when purchasing air travel, as many airlines charge ancillary fees for checked bags, meals, priority boarding and seat assignments.
•Drive responsibly: With more than 90 percent of holiday travelers driving to their destinations, AAA urges everyone on the road to be extra diligent about the dangers of distracted and impaired driving. Roadways will be crowded, so be sure to fully focus on driving. And if you are out celebrating, remember it's your responsibility to get home safely. AAA recommends planning in advance to include choosing a designated driver, taking a cab or staying with family and friends.
"If you are driving, don't drink. And if you are drinking, don't drive. It's that simple," Spada said.
•Travel destinations: This holiday season, many AAA members are staying close to home throughout New York as they travel to see family and friends. There also are some people taking advantage of the 13-day holiday, traveling further to popular warm-weather destinations like Florida, the Caribbean and Mexico.
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.