Online Staff Report
AURORA, Ill. — AAA projects 94.5 million Americans will journey 50 miles or more from home during the year-end holiday season, an increase of 0.6 percent from the 94 million people who traveled last year. This upward trend marks the fifth consecutive year of increases and the highest travel volume recorded for the season. The year-end holiday period is defined as Saturday, Dec. 21, to Wednesday, Jan. 1.
The total number of Illinois travelers will be 4.9 million, a 0.8 percent increase from 2012, with 4.4 million traveling by auto (up 1.1 percent from 2012) and 263,000 traveling by air (a 1.3 percent decrease from 2012).
In Indiana, there will be 2.1 total travelers this year, a1.3 percent increase from 2012, with 1.9 million traveling by auto (a 1.6 percent increase) and 114,000 traveling by air (a 0.8 percent decrease).
Gas prices are about even with 2012 as travelers take to the roads this weekend. In Illinois, the average cost of an unleaded gallon of gasoline is $3.27, and in Indiana, the cost is $3.17.
National highlights from the 2013 AAA Year-End Holiday Travel Forecast include the following:
• Holiday travel to total 94.5 million, an increase of 0.6 percent from the 94 million who traveled last year.
• Year-end holiday travel is expected to increase for the fifth consecutive year, reaching a new high since data have been collected by AAA.
• Ninety-one percent of travelers, or 85.8 million, to travel by automobile, an increase of 0.9 percent.
• Nearly 30 percent (29.7) of all Americans will take a trip this holiday, with more than one in four (27 percent) taking a road trip.
• Holiday air travel is expected to decline slightly to 5.53 million travelers from 5.61 last year.
• Median spending expected to increase slightly to $765, compared to $759 last year.
“While economic growth has stagnated and consumer confidence has fallen, Americans will not be scrooges when it comes to traveling this year,” said AAA Chicago Regional President Brad Roeber. “Of all the travel holidays, the year-end holiday season remains the least volatile as Americans will not let economic conditions dictate their travel plans to celebrate the holidays.”
With nine in 10 holiday travelers driving to their destinations, AAA makes a timely appeal to everyone on the road to be extra diligent about the dangers of impaired driving, particularly when holiday party-goers may risk getting behind the wheel after a festive evening.
According to the latest data from the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety’s annual Traffic Safety Culture Index, one in five 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 that 96 percent of drivers consider impaired driving to be unacceptable, with 50 percent reporting that drunk drivers are a bigger problem today versus three years ago.
“Despite the ubiquitous warnings about drinking and driving, especially during the holiday season, alcohol-related crashes still represent one in three motor vehicle deaths,” said Roeber.
AAA expects to rescue 3.76 million motorists during the holiday season
Between Dec. 21 and Jan. 1, AAA expects to come to the rescue of 3.76 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. Car care tips and information are available at AAA.com.
Automobile travel remains dominant mode of transportation, air travel decreases
Approximately 91 percent of travelers, or 85.8 million people, plan to travel by automobile during the year-end holidays. This is a 0.9 percent increase over the 85.1 million people who traveled by auto last year. Air travel is expected to decrease 1.4 percent as 5.53 million holiday travelers will take to the skies.
Those traveling by air will find airfares slightly lower than last year, according to AAA’s Leisure Travel Index. During Christmas week, the average lowest round-trip rate is $199 for the top 40 U.S. air routes compared to $204 last year. Approximately 3.13 million travelers will choose other modes of transportation, including rail, bus and cruise ship.
Hotel rates relatively flat, car rental rates increase 13 percent
According to AAA’s Leisure Travel Index, hotel rates for AAA Three Diamond lodgings are expected to average $138 per night compared to $142 last year. Travelers planning to stay at AAA Two Diamond hotels can expect to pay an average cost of $102 per night, compared to $101 in 2012. Weekend daily car rental rates will average $63, compared to $55 last year.
Average travel distance increases
According to the survey of intended travelers, the average distance traveled is expected to be 805 miles, which is an increase of 45 miles from last year when travelers logged 760 miles.
Median spending increases slightly; visiting family, dining and shopping top activities
Median spending is expected to be $765, up from $759 last year. Visiting with friends and family (74 percent), Dining (70 percent) and shopping (51 percent) will be the most popular activities.
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.
Posted Dec. 18, 2013