Strong Economy & Growing Consumer Confidence Will Fuel Increased Holiday Travel
ORLANDO, Fla. — This holiday season is set to see the highest volume of year-end travel, despite higher prices at the pump.
According to AAA, 107.3 million Americans are expected to take to planes, trains, automobiles and other modes of transportation during the year-end holiday period from Dec. 23 through Jan. 1. That is a 3.1-percent jump over 2016, and marks the ninth consecutive year of rising year-end holiday travel.
Since 2005, total year-end holiday travel volume has grown by 21.6 million, an increase of more than 25 percent.
"More expensive gas prices are not swaying holiday revelers to stay home," said Bill Sutherland, AAA senior vice president, Travel and Publishing. "In fact, across the board this year, travel has increased year-over-year for every major holiday weekend — Memorial Day, Independence Day, Thanksgiving — and we project the same for the year-end holiday period. We've seen the strong economy and growing consumer confidence fuel holiday travel all year long."
Specifically, AAA said the travel includes:
- Automobiles: The majority of travelers (97.4 million) will hit the road, which is a 3-percent year-over-year increase.
- Planes: 6.4 million people will travel by air, a 4.1-percent increase and the fourth year of consecutive air travel volume increases.
- Trains, Buses, Rails and Cruise Ships: Travel across these sectors will increase by 2.2-percent to 3.6 million.
For the 97.4 million Americans traveling by automobile, INRIX, a global transportation analytics company, in collaboration with AAA, predicts travel times during the holiday week could be as much as three times longer than the normal trip.
Based on historical and recent travel trends, INRIX expects drivers will experience the greatest amount of congestion leading up to the holiday week on Dec. 20 and Dec. 21 in the late afternoon as commuters leave work early and mix with holiday travelers.
"With record-level travelers hitting the road this holiday, drivers must be prepared for delays in major metros," said Graham Cookson, chief economist and head of research at INRIX. "Our advice to drivers is to avoid peak times altogether or consider alternative routes."
The 90 percent of travelers who are getting behind the wheel will find the most expensive year-end gas prices since 2014, according to AAA. This December’s national average price is $2.47, which is 28 cents more than December 2016.
However, AAA does expect the average to drop at least another 5 cents by year-end.
Taking to the skies, flyers will find airfare that is nearly 20 percent cheaper than 2016, according to AAA’s Leisure Travel Index. On average, 2017 airfares are 5 percent less expensive compared to 2016. Overall, competition, capacity over-expansion and lower oil prices are contributing to the decline.
But where is everyone going? According to AAA.com bookings, for a second year, Orlando, Fla., and Anaheim, Calif. top the top 10 holiday destinations.