AURORA, Ill. (December 14, 2017) – ‘Tis the season to spend with family and friends, and this year Americans are traveling in record numbers. AAA forecasts 107.3 million Americans will take to planes, trains, automobiles and other modes of transportation during the year-end holiday period from Saturday, Dec. 23 through Monday, Jan. 1. This will be the highest year-end travel volume on record and a 3.1 percent increase in travel volume compared with last year.
2017 marks the ninth consecutive year of rising year-end holiday travel. Since 2005, total year-end holiday travel volume has grown by 21.6 million, an increase of more than 25 percent. Across the board this year, travel has increased year-over-year for every major holiday weekend – Memorial Day, Independence Day, Thanksgiving – and we project the same for the year-end holiday period.
In Illinois, over 5.5 million people will be traveling for the holiday weekend, which is a 2.3 percent increase from 2016. Of those travelers, 5.1 million will be driving (up 2.3 percent from 2016) and 303,000 will be flying to their destination (a 3.1 percent increase from 2016). Gas prices across Illinois are on average $2.51, down from $2.72 last month and up from $2.28 a year ago.
In Indiana, 2.4 million people are expected to travel, which is up 3.2 percent from 2016. Of those travelers, 2.2 one million are expected to travel by auto (3.2 percent increase) and about 130,000 by air (4 percent increase). In Indiana, gas prices are on average $2.48 per gallon, down from $2.59 a month ago and up considerably from $2.18 this time last year. The average price nationally for gas is $2.45.
"Overall, our research shows that Americans are doing better than last year and want to go somewhere for the holidays," said Vicky Evans, Assistant Vice President, AAA Travel. "Whether they are going home or visiting a new destination, Americans have more money to finance their travel plans, thanks to a stronger economy and growing consumer confidence.
"Depending on where your travels take you, consider using a travel agent to plan your final trip of the year," Evans continued. "Of course, winter weather can be unpredictable, and cause unexpected issues like flight delays or cancellations. If that happens to you, the right travel insurance plan will help offset out-of-pocket expenses." By the Numbers: 2017 Year-End Holiday Travel Forecast
Holiday Headache Hotspots
- Automobiles: The majority of travelers - 97.4 million - will hit the road (a 3 percent year-over-year increase).
- Planes: 6.4 million people will travel by air, a 4.1 percent increase and the fourth year of consecutive air travel volume increases.
- Trains, Buses, Rails and Cruise Ships: Travel across these sectors will increase by 2.2 percent to 3.6 million.
Based on historical and recent travel trends, INRIX expects drivers will experience the greatest amount of congestion before the holiday week – on Wednesday, Dec. 20 and Thursday, Dec. 21 – in the late afternoon as commuters leave work early and mix with holiday travelers. For example, drivers in New York City could see travel times peak at three times a normal trip between 3:30 and 5:30pm.
“With record-level travelers hitting the road this holiday, drivers must be prepared for delays in major metros,” says Dr. Graham Cookson, chief economist & head of research at INRIX. “Our advice to drivers is to avoid peak times altogether or consider alternative routes.”
Travel Tip: Try to avoid traveling through major cities during peak travel times. The best times to leave are typically early morning or after the morning commute because the roads should be less crowded and you will have more time to get to your destination safely. If your schedule permits, traveling on the holiday itself often results in fewer cars on the road. Airfare and hotel rates trend cheaper, car rentals increase year-over-year
|Worst Days/Times to Travel |
|Metro Area ||Worst Day for Travel ||Worst Time for Travel ||Delay Multiplier |
|New York, NY ||Wednesday, Dec. 20 ||3:30 - 5:30 PM ||3x |
|Los Angeles, CA ||Wednesday, Dec. 20 ||3:30 - 6:00 PM ||2.5x |
|Washington, DC ||Thursday, Dec. 21 ||3:00 - 6:00 PM ||2.5x |
|San Francisco, CA ||Wednesday, Dec. 20 ||3:00 - 5:30 PM ||2x |
|Chicago, IL ||Thursday, Dec. 21 ||4:00 - 6:00 PM ||2x |
|Boston, MA ||Thursday, Dec. 21 ||2:30 - 4:30 PM ||2x |
|Seattle, WA ||Wednesday, Dec. 20 ||4:00 - 6:00 PM ||2x |
|Atlanta, GA ||Thursday, Dec. 21 ||4:30 - 6:30 PM ||1.5x |
|Houston, TX ||Wednesday, Dec. 20 ||5:30 - 7:30 PM ||1.5x |
|Detroit, MI ||Thursday, Dec. 21 ||3:00 - 5:30 PM ||1.5x |
Holiday airfares are nearly 20 percent cheaper than last year. At $165, the average end of year holiday airfare for a round-trip flight for the top 40 domestic routes is at a five-year low, according to AAA’s Leisure Travel Index. On average, 2017 airfares are 5 percent less expensive compared to 2016. Overall, competition, capacity over-expansion and lower oil prices are contributing to the decline. Travelers can also find savings at AAA Two and Three Diamond Rated hotels. On average, a Three Diamond hotel nightly rate is $156, a two percent year-over-year decrease. The Two Diamond nightly average rate is $121, a five percent decrease from last year.
Similar to Thanksgiving, car rental rates are more expensive on the year. At $74, the daily car rental rate increased 11 percent. This sets a new five-year record high rate for year-end holiday travel. The increase is on par with the rate increases seen at Thanksgiving. Top 10 Year-End Holiday Travel Destinations
For a second year, Orlando, Florida, and Anaheim, California, top this year’s top 10 holiday destinations based on AAA.com bookings. Warmer weather destinations reign supreme in winter months with Cancun, Kahului (Maui) and Montego Bay gaining in popularity as holiday spots compared with last year.
1. Orlando, Fla.