Holiday travel: 98.6 million plan getaway, most on record

Online Staff Report

AURORA, Illinois — AAA projects 98.6 million Americans will journey 50 miles or more from home during the year-end holiday season, an increase of 4 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, Dec. 23, to Sunday, Jan. 4.

In Illinois, there will be 5 million travelers, a 4.3 percent increase from 2013, with 4.6 million traveling by auto (up 4.9 percent from 2013) and about 266,000 traveling by air (a .2 percent increase from 2013). In Indiana, there will be 2.2 million travelers this year, a 5.3 percent increase from 2013, with 2 million traveling by auto (a 5.4 percent increase) and 117,000 traveling by air (a 2.1 percent increase). Gas prices are the lowest they have been since October 2009, helping to boost disposable income. In Illinois, the average cost of an unleaded gallon of gasoline is $2.58 and in Indiana the cost is $2.42.

Highlights from 2014/2015 Year-End Holiday Travel Forecast include the following:

Holiday travel is expected to total 98.6 million, an increase of 4 percent 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 percent of all travelers (89.5 million) will celebrate the holidays with a road trip, an increase of 4.2 percent from 2013.

Air travel is forecast to grow 1 percent from 2013, with 5.7 million travelers taking to the skies.

Tis the season for holiday travel, and this year, more Americans will join with friends and family to celebrate the holidays and ring in the New Year than ever before,” said Beth Mosher, director of public affairs for AAA Chicago. “While the economy continues to improve at an uneven pace, it seems more Americans are looking forward with increasing consumer confidence, rather than looking back at the recession. This is helping to drive expected travel volumes to the highest level we have seen for the year-end holidays.

Lower gas prices are filling stockings with a little more cash to spend on travel this year as travelers are expected to pay the lowest prices since 2009,” continued Mosher. “Lower prices are increasing disposable income and enabling families to set aside money for travel this year.”

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 percent 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 percent of drivers consider impaired driving to be unacceptable, with 42 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, an average of one alcohol-impaired driving death occurs every 45 minutes,” said Mosher.

Hotel, car rental rates rise modestly

According to AAA’s Leisure Travel Index, hotel rates for AAA Three Diamond lodgings are expected to increase 4 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 percent with an average cost of $108 per night. Daily car rental rates will average $66, 4 percent higher than last year.

Airfares fall 7 percent this year, driven by low-cost carriers

Average discounted round-trip airfares across 40 top domestic routes are expected to fall 7 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 Dec. 23 and Jan. 4, 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. Car care tips and information are available at AAA.com.

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 at http://newsroom.aaa.com/.

Posted Dec. 19, 2014

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