AAA: Number of holiday travelers expected to top 100 million for the first time

AUORA, Ill. (December 15, 2015) – 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.

In Illinois, 5.2 million people will be traveling for the holiday weekend, which is a 2 percent increase
from 2014. Of those travelers, 4.8 million will be driving (up 2 percent from 2014) and 281,000 will be flying to their destination (a 2.2 percent increase from 2014). Gas prices across Illinois are on average $2..01, down substantially from $2.59 in 2014.
 
In Indiana, 2.2 million people are expected to travel, which is a 1.2 percent increase from 2014. Of those, two million are expected to travel by auto (1.2 percent increase) and about 119,000 by air (1.4 percent increase). In Indiana, gas prices are on average $1.92 per gallon, down from $2.44 this time last year. The average price nationally for gas is $2.01

“The holidays are a time for joining with friends and family, and the record number of people traveling this holiday should make for a joyous travel season,” said Beth Mosher, AAA Chicago spokesperson.  “Rising incomes and low gas prices are helping to fill stockings this year, and more people than ever will choose to spend those savings on travel this year.”  

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. This is helping boost Americans’ disposable income, but some consumers continue to remain cautious about their finances as they head into the holiday season.

Driving remains most popular mode of travel for year-end holiday travel
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.
 
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. Daily car rental rates will average $68, three percent higher than last year’s holiday travel season.

#AAAToTheRescue for nearly 900,000 motorists this holiday season
AAA expects to rescue nearly 900,000 motorists during the 12-day year-end holiday travel period, with the primary reasons being dead batteries, lockouts and flat tires. 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 having 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 Mosher. “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.”

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.
###