AAA projects the number of year-end holiday travelers will top 100 million for the first time on record. Nearly one in three Americans will take a trip this holiday season, with 100.5 million expected to journey 50 miles or more from home. This represents a 1.4 percent increase over last year and the seventh consecutive year of year-end holiday travel growth. The year-end holiday travel period is defined as Wednesday, December 23, 2015 to Sunday, January 3, 2016.
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The increase in holiday travel this year is being driven by continued improvement in the labor market, rising incomes and low prices, including gas prices that remain well below last year’s levels, AAA said. This is helping boost Americans’ disposable income, but some consumers continue to remain cautious about their finances as they head into the holiday season.
More than 90 percent of travelers (91.3 million people) will drive to their holiday destinations, an increase of 1.4 percent over last year. Air travel is expected to increase by 0.7 percent, with 5.8 million Americans flying to their holiday destinations. Travel by other modes of transportation, including cruises, trains and buses, will increase 2.4 percent, to 3.4 million travelers.
The national average price for a gallon of gasoline remains poised to fall below the $2 per gallon benchmark by Christmas. Today’s national average is $2.01, 55 cents less than last year. AAA expects most U.S. drivers will pay the lowest gas prices on New Year’s Day since 2009.
According to AAA’s Leisure Travel Index, airfares for the top 40 domestic flight routes are six percent lower this holiday season, falling to an average of $174 roundtrip. Rates for AAA Three Diamond Rated lodgings will be four percent higher this year, with travelers spending an average of $150 per night. The average rate for a AAA Two Diamond Rated hotel has risen 11 percent with an average nightly cost of $119. Daily car rental rates will average $68, three percent higher than last year’s holiday travel season.
AAA’s projections are based on economic forecasting and research by IHS Global Insight. The Colorado-based business information provider teamed with AAA in 2009 to jointly analyze travel trends during major holidays. AAA has been reporting on holiday travel trends for more than two decades.