More than 100 million Americans to travel over holidays, AAA says

(Getty Images)

(Getty Images)

AAA projects the number of year-end holiday travelers will top 100 million for the first time on record. Nearly one in three Americans (100.5 million) will journey 50 miles or more between Dec. 23 and Jan. 3. This shows a 1.4 percent increase of travelers over last year and the seventh consecutive year of travel growth for this holiday period.

“The increase in holiday travel this year is driven by continued improvement in the labor market, rising incomes and low gas prices which remain well below last year’s levels,” said Brent Stahlheber, senior vice president of brand marketing and travel at AAA . “This helps boost Americans’ disposable income, generating more money to spend on lodging, dining out, and buying gifts.”

Driving remains the most popular mode of travel for the end-of-the-year holidays

  • 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 (3.4 million)

Lowest New Year’s gas prices in seven years expected

The national and Florida average prices for a gallon of gasoline are poised to fall below the $2 per gallon benchmark by Christmas. Monday’s national average was $2.01, 32 cents less than Christmas Day 2014 and 23 cents lower than the price on New Year’s Day 2015. In Florida, the average price on Monday was $2.03 –39 cents lower than Christmas Day 2014 and 33 cents lower than New Year’s Day 2015.

AAA predicts that drivers will pay the lowest gas prices this holiday season since 2008.

Airfares fall, hotel and car rental rates rise modestly

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. Car rental rates will average to about $68 per day, three percent higher than last year’s holiday travel season.

 AAA To The Rescue

AAA expects to help nearly 900,000 motorists during the 12-day holiday travel period with dead batteries, lockouts, flat tires, and many other motor issues. AAA recommends motorists check the condition of their battery and tires for winter driving before heading out on a holiday getaway. Also, have vehicles inspected by a trusted repair shop, such as one of the nearly 7,000 AAA Approved Auto Repair facilities across North America. Members can download the AAA Mobile app, visit AAA.com or call 1-800-AAA-HELP to request roadside assistance.

AAA cautions against impaired driving this holiday season

According to the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety’s Traffic Safety Culture Index, one in five licensed drivers (21%), who drink at least occasionally, reported to have driven when they thought their alcohol level might have been close to, or possibly over, the legal limit in the past year.

“As we celebrate the holiday season, AAA urges travelers to be cautious about their safety and the safety of everyone sharing the roadways,” said Amy Stracke, Executive Director of the Auto Club Group Traffic Safety Foundation. “Ninety-seven percent of licensed drivers consider it unacceptable to drive when they may have had too much to drink, yet there is an average of one alcohol-impaired driving death every 53 minutes.”

Download the AAA Mobile app before a holiday getaway

Before setting out on a holiday trip, download the free AAA Mobile app for iPhone, iPad and Android. Travelers can use the app to map a route, find lowest gas prices, access exclusive member discounts, make travel arrangements, request AAA roadside assistance, find AAA Approved Auto Repair facilities and more. Learn more at AAA.com/mobile.

With the AAA Mobile app, travelers can also find more than 58,000 AAA Approved and Diamond Rated hotels and restaurants via TripTik Travel Planner. AAA’s is the only rating system that uses full-time, professionally trained evaluators to inspect each property on an annual basis. Every AAA Approved establishment offers the assurance of acceptable cleanliness, comfort and hospitality, and ratings of One to Five Diamonds help travelers find the right match for amenities and services.

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. The complete AAA/IHS Global Insight 2015 year-end holiday travel forecast can be found here.

Travel numbers from AAA

Auto travel

National: 91.3 million in 2015; up from 90 million in 2014

Florida: 4,752,535 in 2015; up from 4,662,262 in 2014

Air travel

National: 5.8 million in 2015; up from 5.7 million in 2014

Florida: 276,821 in 2015; up from 274,114 in 2014

Other modes

National: 3.44 million in 2015; up from 3.36 million in 2014

Florida: 193,880 in 2015; up from 189,429 in 2014

Total travel

National: 100.5 million in 2015; up from 99.1 million in 2014

Florida: 5,223,235 in 2015; up from 5,125,805 in 2014

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