Ho, ho, ho and away we go again - in record numbers

Less than a month after a busy Thanksgiving travel period, Americans are again on the move. And like Thanksgiving, travel over the upcoming Christmas/New Year’s holiday is likely to show a increase compared to last year, reports AAA Northeast.

In fact, more than 103 million Americans – the most on record and a 1.7% increase  – are expected to travel over the year-end holidays compared to last year. This increase comes despite one fewer travel day this holiday season. The year-end travel period runs from Friday, Dec. 23 — Monday, Jan. 2, 2017.

Of the overall 103 million travelers, 91% or 93.6 million people plan to drive, which reflects a 1.5% increase; 6% or 6 million plan to fly, which reflects a 2.5% increase; and        3% or 3.5 million will take a train, bus or some other mode of transportation, including one traveler who says he’ll make a round-the-world journey by sleigh late Dec. 24.

The New England region, with more than 4.4 million travelers expected on the roads and in the skies, will outpace most of the country with an increase of 2.5% over 2015.

Contributing to the record travel numbers is relatively low gas prices nationally and rising incomes that allows travelers to spend more on travel.

U.S. drivers have saved more than $27 billion at the gas pumps so far this year compared to the same period last year.

This week’s (as of Dec. 19) national average price for a gallon of gasoline is $2.24, 24 cents more than the average price this time last year, which was $2. However, most U.S. drivers will pay the second-cheapest year end  gas prices since 2009, when the national average was $1.62.

In Connecticut, average prices this week are $2.38  a gallon, up 20 cents  from last year at this time.

According to AAA’s Leisure Travel Index, holiday airfares are projected to average $204 for a roundtrip flight along the top 40 domestic routes. Rates for AAA Two- and Three -Diamond Rated lodgings are expected to increase 7%, with travelers spending an average of $128 and $160 per night, respectively. Daily car rental rates will average $66, slightly lower than last year’s holiday travel season.

The top five destinations through www.aaa.com for the holiday include: Las Vegas, Orlando, New York City, San Diego and Anaheim.

AAA’s projections are based on economic forecasting and research by IHS Markit. The London-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 2016 year-end holiday travel forecast can be found at the AAA website.
Fran Mayko
AAA Northeast