Americans will travel in potentially record numbers this Christmas-New Year’s holiday, despite travel costs that are up nearly across the board, according to AAA.
AAA estimates that 63.5 million Americans will travel 50 miles or more from home this holiday, a 1.7% increase from last year’s 62.42 million travelers.
“Double-digit increases from last year in hotel rates, air fares, and gas prices won’t keep Americans from traveling in record numbers over the holidays,” said AAA CEO and President Robert L. Darbelnet. “Even with two great Christmas getaway spots – Cancun and New Orleans – still recovering from hurricanes, more than 63 million of us will hit the skies, seas, and highways for the holiday.”
Approximately 51.54 million travelers, or 81% of all holiday travelers, expect to go by motor vehicle, a 1.7% increase from the 50.68 million who drove a year ago.
Holiday auto travelers will find gas prices nationwide currently averaging $2.18 for a gallon of self-serve regular gasoline – down nearly 90 cents from the records set over Labor Day weekend, but still 31 cents higher than a year ago.
Another 8.75 million (14% of holiday travelers) plan to travel by airplane, up 1.6% from the 8.61 million that flew over the holidays last year. A projected 3.21 million travelers (5%) will go by train, bus, or other mode of transportation, including recreational vehicle, up slightly from 3.13 million a year ago.
“Airports will stay busy across Christmas, Hanukkah, and New Year’s as Americans visit family, escape to tropical islands, head for cruise ships, hit the ski slopes, and more for the holidays,” said Darbelnet. “Unlike the obligatory trips to visit relatives at Thanksgiving, December offers a chance for people to take real vacations.”
In addition to highest-ever yuletide pump prices, travelers will face much higher prices for hotels and airfares, according to AAA’s Leisure Travel Index.
Most travelers will avoid the high hotel rates, with 69% of holiday travelers expect to stay at a friend or relative’s home. Hotels and motels are a distant second at 22%, followed by cabin/condo, 4%; camper/trailer/RV/tent, 1%; other, 1%; no overnight stay, 1%; and didn’t know, 2%.