AAA projects 98.6 million Americans will journey 50 miles or more from home during the year-end holiday season, an increase of four 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. The year-end holiday period is defined as Tuesday, December 23 to Sunday, January 4.
"'Tis the season for holiday travel, and this year more Americans will join with friends and family to celebrate the holidays and ring in the New Year than ever before," said Marshall L. Doney, AAA President and Chief Operating Officer. "While the economy continues to improve at an uneven pace, 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."
"Lower gas prices are filling stockings with a little more cash to spend on travel this year as travelers are expected to pay the lowest prices since 2009," continued Doney. "Lower prices are increasing disposable income and enabling families to set aside money for travel this year."
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 impaired driving. "Despite the ubiquitous warnings about drinking and driving, especially during the holiday season, an average of one alcohol-impaired driving death occurs every 45 minutes," said Doney.
Hotel, car rental rates rise modestly
According to AAA's Leisure Travel Index, hotel rates for AAA Three Diamond lodgings are expected to increase four percent from one year ago with travelers spending an average of $143 per night compared to $138 last year. The average hotel rate for AAA Two Diamond hotels has risen five percent with an average cost of $108 per night. Daily car rental rates will average $66, four percent higher than last year.
Airfares fall seven percent this year, driven by low-cost carriers
Average discounted round-trip airfares across 40 top domestic routes are expected to fall seven 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.
AAA expects to rescue 1.1 million motorists this holiday season
Between December 23 and January 4, AAA expects to come to the rescue of more than 1.1 million motorists with the primary reasons for breakdowns being dead batteries, flat tires and lockouts. AAA recommends motorists check battery and tire condition and prepare vehicles for winter driving before heading out on a holiday getaway. Car care tips and information are available at AAA.com.
AAA offers travel planning resources
AAA's digital tools for travel planning on the go include the free AAA Mobile app for iPhone, iPad and Android. Travelers can use the app to map a route, find current gas prices and discounts, book a hotel and access AAA roadside assistance. Travelers can learn more at AAA.com/mobile.