AAA Travel forecasting 1.4 percent increase in year-end holiday travel, but shorter trips than last year
AAA Travel is forecasting 91.9 million Americans will travel 50 miles or more from home during the 2011-12 year-end holiday travel season, a 1.4 percent increase over the 90.7 million people who traveled one year ago.
This year’s expected travel volume is the second highest in the past decade and represents 30 percent of the total U.S. population. AAA defines the holiday travel season as Friday, Dec. 23 to Monday, Jan. 2, 2012.“The 11-day year-end holiday period is the longest holiday travel season of the year, affording many more Americans time to visit family or take vacations,” said Tom Chestnut, President/CEO of AAA Western and Central New York. “This is also a positive sign for the travel industry as we anticipate the second highest year-end holiday travel volume in the past ten years.”
Approximately 83.6 million people (91 percent of holiday travelers) plan to travel by car this travel season, a 2.1 percent increase compared to 2010-11. Automobile travel remains the preferred choice of transportation for holiday travelers as it is often more affordable, convenient and flexible, AAA officials say.
The current national average price for regular unleaded gasoline is approximately $3.26 per gallon, about 29 cents more than one year ago, but down 72 cents from the peak price of $3.98 on May 5. Drivers in New York State are paying an average of $3.56 per gallon. The average price for a gallon of self-serve regular is $3.46 in the Syracuse area as of today.
About 5.4 million leisure travelers (six percent of holiday travelers) will fly during the holiday travel period, a 9.7 percent decrease from 2010-11. Jet fuel costs and capacity cuts continue to impact holiday air travel.
According to AAA’s Leisure Travel Index, holiday airfares are expected to be 21 percent higher than last year with an average lowest round-trip rate of $210 for the top 40 U.S. air routes. This is the highest holiday average airfare in the past five years.
The average distance traveled during the holidays is expected to be 726 miles, a decline from last year’s average of 1,052 miles. Propelling the reduction in expected travel miles is the 9.7 percent decline in air travel. Median spending is expected to be $718, which is a three percent increase from $694 last year.
Fuel and transportation costs combine to consume the largest share of holiday spending AAA’s projections are based on economic forecasting and research by IHS Global Insight. The Boston-based economic research and consulting firm 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.