AAA projects 93.3 million Americans will journey 50 miles or more from home during the year-end holidays, an increase of 1.6 percent over the 91.8 million who traveled last year.
This increase brings national holiday travel figures to within half a million of the decade high mark seen during the 2006/2007 season.
Of total travelers, 84.4 million will drive, 5.6 million will fly and 3.27 million will go by other means, including bus, train, cruise ship or multimodal travel.
The auto club projects 852,300 Oklahomans will travel by all modes of transportation over the holidays, a jump of 1.9 percent from last year.
Of this number, 800,500 will drive, 47,550 will fly and another 4,250 will get there by other means. The year-end holiday travel period is defined by AAA as Saturday, Dec. 22 to Tuesday, Jan. 1, 2013.
Year-End Holiday Travel Highlights
- Nationwide, 90 percent of travelers (84.4 million) are expected to travel by passenger car, pickup or RV, representing 26.7 percent of the total U.S. population. Ninety-four percent of Oklahomans will drive to holiday destinations.
- Christmas/New Year’s highway travel this year is predicted to be 1.3 percent heavier this year across the U.S. and 1.7 percent thicker in Oklahoma.
- Holiday air travel is projected to increase 4.5 percent among all Americans and 5.9 percent among Oklahomans.
- Median spending is expected to increase almost six percent to $759, compared to $718 in 2011, with transportation costs consuming about 29 cents of every travel dollar.
- Average distance traveled will increase to 760 miles round-trip from 726 miles; no doubt due to the increase in air travelers.
- Travel volumes for the year-end holidays are generally very stable; only once in the past decade has there been a change in travel volume greater than five percent.
“The year-end holiday season remains the least volatile of all travel holidays as Oklahomans will not let economic conditions or high gas prices dictate if they go home for the holidays or kick off the New Year with a vacation,” said AAA Oklahoma spokesman Chuck Mai.
“Primary economic indicators all show modest improvement from last year and AAA is projecting an increase in the number of Americans stuffing their stockings with airline tickets and hotel reservations.”
Impact of gasoline prices on travel plans
AAA estimates the national average price of gasoline will slowly drop through the end of the year and average between $3.20-3.40 a gallon by New Year’s Day. Gas prices dropped about 50 cents a gallon on average from September through early December, but remain at record highs for this time of year.
AAA does not expect gas prices to have a major impact on travel volume, but consumers could have more money to spend on holiday shopping, dining and entertainment if prices drop through December as expected. For the latest gasoline price averages, visit AAAFuelGaugeReport.com.
Those traveling by air will find lower airfares, according to AAA’s Leisure Travel Index. For the year-end holiday period, the average lowest round-trip rate is $203 for the top 40 U.S. air routes, a three percent decrease from last year.
Hotel rates to increase slightly, car rental rates increase 41 percent
According to AAA’s Leisure Travel Index, year-end holiday hotel rates for AAA Three Diamond lodgings are expected to increase two percent from a year ago, with travelers spending an average of $129 per night compared to $126 last year.
Travelers planning to stay at AAA Two Diamond hotels can expect to pay three percent more, at an average cost of $95 per night. Daily car rental rates will average $56, compared to $40 last year.
Average travel distance increases
According to the survey of intended travelers, the average distance traveled by Americans during holiday period is expected to be 760 miles, further than last year when travelers planned to log an average of 726 miles.
Median spending up nearly 6 percent
Median spending is expected to be $759, a 6 percent increase compared to the expected median spending of intended holiday travelers ($718) last year.
Dining (67 percent) and spending time with family and friends (66 percent) and are the most popular activities planned by travelers. It is not surprising that during holiday season, shopping is the third most popular activity with 57 percent expecting to shop. More than one-third (34 percent) of holiday travelers plan to sightsee during their trips.
AAA offers digital travel planning resources
AAA’s digital tools for travel planning ‘on the go’ include eTourBook guides for 101 top North American destinations, available free to members at AAA.com/ebooks. Choose from city titles, like the award-winning Las Vegas, as well as regions, like Wine Country, and National Parks.
The free AAA Mobile app for iPhone, Android and iPad uses GPS navigation to help travelers map a route, find current gas prices and discounts and access AAA roadside assistance. Travelers can learn about the AAA Mobile app and AAA Mobile Web at AAA.com/mobile.
On AAA.com. travelers can find thousands of AAA Approved and Diamond Rated hotels and restaurants using AAA’s TripTik Travel Planner or the searchable Travel Guides at AAA.com/Travel. 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 the major holidays. AAA has been reporting on holiday travel trends for more than two decades. The complete AAA / IHS Global Insight 2012/13 Year-end Holiday Travel Forecast can be found at NewsRoom.AAA.com.