Report: Record year-end holiday travel numbers expected

Staff report

AAA expects the number of Americans taking a year-end holiday trip to top 100 million for the first time on record, with 100.5 million planning to journey 50 miles or more from home between Dec. 23 and Jan. 3. Ohio travelers are also expected to break records with more than 4 million Ohioans traveling during the holiday period.

The projected travel volume is an increase of 1.4 percent nationally and 1 percent in Ohio, and marks the seventh consecutive year of year-end holiday travel growth. This year’s holiday travel period spans 12 days, which is one day shorter than last year.

Behind the Numbers:

The increase in holiday travel this year is being driven by continued improvement in the labor market, rising incomes and low gas prices. This is helping boost disposable income, giving people more money to travel.

“The holidays are a time for joining with friends and family,” said Marshall Doney, AAA president and CEO. “Rising incomes and low gas prices are helping to fill stockings this year, and more people than ever will choose to spend those savings on travel this year.”

Despite the record numbers, travel growth has slowed compared to last year’s 4.5 percent increase (8.5 percent in Ohio), as some consumers are becoming more cautious with their finances and putting more money into savings.

Modes of Transportation:

Automobile travel remains the dominant form of transportation. More than 90 percent of American travelers and nearly 92 percent of Ohio travelers will drive to their destinations this holiday. This is an increase of 1.4 percent nationally and 1 percent in Ohio.

With so many travelers on the road, breakdowns are likely. AAA expects to assist more than 900,000 motorists during the 12-day holiday travel period. The primary reasons for calls will be dead batteries, lockouts and flat tires. To prevent breakdowns, motorists should have their vehicle inspected before hitting the road this holiday.

Low gas prices continue to give holiday drivers a bonus this year. AAA expects gas prices to remain low through the holidays. Last year, gas prices averaged $2.28 nationally and $2.03 in Ohio during the holiday travel period.

Air travel volumes are expected to increase by 0.7 percent nationally and 1.2 percent in Ohio, with nearly 5.8 million Americans, including nearly 218,000 Ohioans, flying during the holiday period. Air travelers are also saving money this holiday season. Airfares for the top 40 domestic flight routes are 6 percent lower than last year, at an average of $174 roundtrip, according to AAA’s Leisure Travel Index.

Hotel & Rental Car Costs:

While travelers will save on gas and airfares, they will pay slightly more for hotels and rental cars. AAA’s Leisure Travel Index predicts rates for AAA Three Diamond lodgings will increase 4 percent to an average of $150 per night and rates for AAA Two Diamond hotels will increase 11 percent to an average of $119 per night. Car rental rates will increase 3 percent to $68 per day.

Staff report