COLUMBUS — AAA expects a record 107.3 million Americans, including nearly 4.5 million Ohioans, to journey 50 miles or more from home between Saturday, Dec. 23, 2017 and Monday Jan. 1, 2018.
The projected travel volume is an increase of 3.1 percent nationally and 3.6 percent in Ohio, and marks the ninth consecutive year of year-end holiday travel growth. The growth comes despite the fact that this year’s 10-day year-end holiday travel period is one day shorter than last year.
“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,” said Bill Sutherland, AAA senior vice president, Travel and Publishing.
Steady economic growth continues to drive this year’s increase in travel, as stronger employment, rising incomes, low prices for goods and services, and increasing household assets are leading to more consumer spending.
Modes of transportation
Automobiles: Higher gas prices than last year won’t keep drivers from traveling over the holidays. Nearly 91 percent of travelers (92 percent of Ohio travelers) will drive to their holiday destination. AAA expects to assist nearly 1 million (901,600) motorists across the country during the 10-day holiday period with dead batteries, flat tires, lockouts and more.
Planes: Lower air fares are fueling an increase in holiday air travel, with nearly 6.4 million Americans, including nearly 239,000 Ohioans flying this holiday – a 4.1 percent increase (4.4 percent in Ohio) over last year. Travelers should expect long security lines and plan to arrive at the airport at least two hours before their scheduled flight.
Holiday traffic headaches
For this year’s holiday travel forecast, AAA partnered with INRIX, a global transportation and analytics company to analyze the best and worst times to travel.
Based on historical and recent travel trends, drivers can expect the greatest amount of congestion before the holiday week – Wednesday, Dec. 20 and Thursday, Dec. 21 – in the late afternoon as commuters leave work early and mix with holiday travelers. Travel times during the holiday week could be as much as three times longer than the normal trip.
Travel Tip: Try to avoid traveling through major cities during peak travel times. The best times to leave are typically early morning or after the morning commute. If your schedule permits, traveling on the actual holiday often results in fewer cars on the road.
Holiday travel costs
Holiday airfares are nearly 20 percent cheaper than last year. At $165, the average year-end holiday airfare for a round-trip ticket on the top 40 domestic routes is at a five-year low, according to AAA’s Leisure Travel Index. Competition, capacity, over-expansion and lower oil prices are contributing to the decline.
Travelers can also find savings at AAA Two and Three Diamond Rated hotels. On average, a Three Diamond hotel costs 2 percent less than last year, at $156 per night. AAA Two Diamond hotels cost 5 percent less, at an average of $121 per night.
Car rental rates are up 11 percent from last year, to an average of $74 per day. This sets a new five-year record high rate for the year-end holiday period.