AAA estimates that 65.2 million Americans will travel at least 50 miles from home during the period between Christmas and New Year, an increase under 1 percent increase from last year's 64.7 million travelers. But the association warned travelers to expect gas prices and airfares well above last year's levels. "Whether driving or flying, Americans face steep increases in their travel budgets during this Christmas/New Year's holiday," said Robert L. Darbelnet, president and CEO of AAA. "Gasoline prices remain at unprecedented levels for this time of year, with prices of $3 a gallon or more a common sight across much of the country. Airfares averaging 16 percent more than last Christmas means that bargains may be hard to find for those looking to fly to their destinations." Research for holiday travel is based on a national web survey of 2,200 adults by the Travel Industry Association, which conducts special research for AAA.
Approximately 53 million people expect to travel by motor vehicle, a 0.9 percent increase from the 52.5 million who drove in 2006. AAA expects 8.9 million Americans (13.7 percent of holiday travelers) to travel by airplane, a slight decrease of 0.3 percent from last Christmas holiday. A projected 3.3 million travelers will go by train, bus or other mode of transportation.
Meanwhile, gas prices nearly 70 cents more than last year is not the only high portion of Americans' travel budgets, according to AAA's Leisure Travel Index. After no change in price from 2005 to 2006, the average cost of an airline ticket is up 16 percent for travel during the week of Christmas and 9 percent during the week of New Year's. Hotel rates for AAA three-diamond hotels climbed 4 percent and 9 percent, respectively, when compared to Christmas and New Year's a year ago. The only area of relief for travelers comes by way of lower car rental rates. Those renting a car will find prices 4 percent less during the week of Christmas than last year and 13 percent less if renting a car during the week of New Year's. Visit www.aaa.com. (DB)