98.6 Million Americans Traveling this Holiday Season, 4% More Than Last Year

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AAA projects 98.6 million Americans will journey 50 miles or more from home during the year-end holiday season, an increase of four percent from the 94.8 million people who traveled last year. This upward trend marks the highest forecast growth rate for the year-end holiday season since 2009 and the highest travel volume for the holiday period on record. (AAA data dates back to 2001.) The year-end holiday period is defined as Tuesday, December 23rd to Sunday, January 4th.

Highlights from 2014/2015 Year-End Holiday Travel Forecast:
•Holiday travel is expected to total 98.6 million, an increase of 4% from the 94.8 million who traveled last year.
•Travel volume for the year-end holidays will reach the highest peak recorded by AAA (since 2001).
•Nearly 91% of all travelers (89.5 million) will celebrate the holidays with a road trip, an increase of 4.2% from 2013.
•Air travel is forecast to grow one percent from 2013, with 5.7 million travelers taking to the skies.
•Low gas prices continue to help boost disposable income this holiday season, with today’s national average price of gas at $2.54 per gallon, 69 cents less than a year ago. In Mississippi, the statewide average is $2.32 per gallon compared to $3.06 last year.

AAA attributes the uptick in travel largely to increasing consumer confidence; however, lower prices are increasing disposable income and enabling families to set aside money for travel this year. Travelers are expected to pay the lowest gasoline prices since 2009.

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The calendar is having a positive effect on the number of travelers expected this year. This year the holidays land on a Thursday, creating a holiday travel season that is one day longer than last year’s and the longest since 2008, offering travelers more options for departures and return trips. This flexibility makes it possible for more people to fit holiday travel into their schedules.

With more than 90% of holiday travelers driving to their destinations, AAA urges everyone on the road to be extra diligent about the dangers of impaired driving. According to the latest data from the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety’s annual Traffic Safety Culture Index, one in eight of all licensed drivers 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.

The survey also reveals 91% of drivers consider impaired driving to be unacceptable, with 42% reporting that drunk drivers are a bigger problem today versus three years ago.

Impact of Gasoline Prices on Travel Plans
Today’s national average price of gasoline is at the lowest level in five years and 69 cents lower than last year, a welcome gift for holiday travelers. Gas prices have fallen for 81 days in a row, helping to increase Americans’ disposable income 3.5% from year-ago levels, which has had a positive effect on travel.

Hotel, Car Rental Rates Rise Modestly
According to AAA’s Leisure Travel Index, hotel rates for AAA Three Diamond lodgings are expected to increase four percent from one year ago with travelers spending an average of $143 per night compared to $138 last year. The average hotel rate for AAA Two Diamond hotels has risen 5% with an average cost of $108 per night. Daily car rental rates will average $66, 4% higher than last year.

Airfares Fall 7% This Year, Driven by Low-Cost Carriers
Average discounted round-trip airfares across 40 top domestic routes are expected to fall seven percent this year, to $186. This is influenced by the availability of discounted rates from low-cost carriers in several top markets. AAA encourages travelers to consider the full cost of a ticket when purchasing air travel, as many airlines charge ancillary fees for checked bags, meals, priority boarding, and seat assignments.

AAA Expects to Rescue 1.1 Million Motorists This Holiday Season
Between December 23rd and January 4th, AAA expects to come to the rescue of more than 1.1 million motorists with the primary reasons for breakdowns being dead batteries, flat tires and lockouts. AAA recommends motorists check battery and tire condition and prepare vehicles for winter driving before heading out on a holiday getaway.

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 the major holidays. AAA has been reporting on holiday travel trends for more than two decades. The complete AAA/IHS Global Insight 2014 Year-End Travel Forecast can be found here.

As North America’s largest motoring and leisure travel organization, AAA provides more than 54 million members with travel, insurance, financial, and automotive-related services. Since its founding in 1902, AAA has been a leader and advocate for the safety and security of all travelers.

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