Highlights from AAA's 2012/13 Year-End Holiday Travel Forecast include:
Year-end holiday travelers to total 93.3 million, an increase of 1.6 percent from the 91.8 million who traveled last year
Ninety percent of travelers (84.4 million) are forecast to travel by automobile, representing 26.7 percent of the total U.S. population
Holiday air travel is expected to increase 4.5 percent to 5.6 million travelers from 5.4 million in 2011
Median spending is expected to increase almost 6 percent to $759, compared to $718 in 2011, with transportation costs consuming about 29 cents of every travel dollar
Average distance traveled to increase to 760 miles round-trip from 726 miles in 2011, an expected result with the increase in air travelers
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“The year-end holiday season remains the least volatile of all travel holidays as Americans will not let economic conditions or high gas prices dictate if they go home for the holidays or kick off the New Year with a vacation,” said Brent Hubele, vice president, AAA Travel, The Auto Club Group. “Travel this year will end on a strong note and the advanced travel bookings for 2013 are far outpacing those from this time last year.”
Impact of gasoline prices on travel plans
AAA estimates the national average price of gasoline will slowly drop through the end of the year and average between $3.20-$3.40 a gallon by New Year’s Day. Gas prices dropped about 50 cents a gallon on average from September through early December, but remain at record highs for this time of year. AAA does not expect gas prices to have a major impact on travel volume, but consumers could have more money to spend on holiday shopping, dining, and entertainment if prices drop through December as forecast.
Automobile travel remains dominant mode of transportation, air travel increases
Approximately 90 percent of travelers (84.4 million) plan to travel by automobile this holiday season. This is a 1.3 percent increase from the 83.3 million people who traveled by auto last year. Air travel is expected to increase 4.5 percent as 6 percent of travelers, or 5.6 million, will take to the skies.
Those traveling by air will find lower airfares according to AAA’s Leisure Travel Index. For the year-end holiday period the average lowest round-trip rate is $203 for the top 40 U.S. air routes, a 3 percent decrease from last year. Approximately 3.3 million travelers will choose other modes of transportation, including rail, bus, and cruise ship.
Hotel rates to increase slightly, car rental rates increase 41 percent
According to AAA’s Leisure Travel Index, year-end holiday hotel rates for AAA Three Diamond lodgings are expected to increase 2 percent from a year ago, with travelers spending an average of $129 per night compared to $126 last year. Travelers who plan to stay at AAA Two Diamond hotels can expect to pay 3 percent more, at an average cost of $95 per night. Daily car rental rates will average $56, compared to $40 last year.
Average travel distance increases
According to the survey of intended travelers, the average distance traveled by Americans during the holiday period is expected to be 760 miles, 34 miles more than last year.
Median spending up nearly 6 percent; top activities are dining and spending time with loved ones
Median spending is expected to be $759, a 6 percent increase compared to $718 spent last year.
Dining (67 percent) and spending time with family and friends (66 percent) are the most popular activities planned by travelers. It is not surprising that during the holiday season, shopping is the third most popular activity with 57 percent expecting to shop. More than one in three (34 percent) of holiday travelers plan to sightsee during their trips.
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 2012/13 Year-end Holiday Travel Forecast can be found at NewsRoom.AAA.com.
The Auto Club Group, the second largest affiliation of AAA clubs, offers travel, insurance and financial services to more than 8.4 million members across 11 states and two U.S. territories. This includes Florida, Georgia, Iowa, Michigan, Nebraska, North Dakota, Wisconsin, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands; most of Illinois, Minnesota and Tennessee; and a portion of Indiana. The Auto Club Group belongs to the national AAA federation with nearly 53 million members in the United States and Canada, whose mission includes protecting and advancing freedom of mobility and improving traffic safety.