Heavy travel this holiday season, AAA predicts

People are on the move this Christmas season, whether by car or plane. Photo: Todd DeFeo

ATLANTA, Dec. 19, 2012 — More than one in every four Americans will be traveling this holiday season, according to AAA’s latest estimates. That figure if roughly on par with the decade’s high mark hit during the 2006-07 season.

Meanwhile, a separate holiday travel survey of 1,300 U.S. travelers and released by TripAdvisor found that 45 percent are planning to travel during the December holidays, an increase from the 42 percent who did so last year.

In total, AAA predicts 93.3 million Americans will travel at least 50 miles during the year-end holidays. If correct, this represents a 1.6 percent increase from the 91.8 million people who traveled during the year-end holidays last year.

“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,” AAA President and CEO Robert Darbelnet said in a release. “Primary economic indicators all show modest improvement from last year and AAA is projecting an increase in the number of Americans stuffing their stockings with airline tickets and hotel reservations.”

The organization predicts upwards of 90 percent of travelers — or 84.4 million — will be driving to their destination.

The good news for travelers is gas prices have dropped roughly 50 cents per gallon between September and early December, but prices are at record highs for this time of year, AAA said.

TripAdvisor is predicting that 48 percent of travelers are planning to drive, a decrease from the 52 percent who hit the road in 2011. At the same time, the 46 percent who are planning to fly represents an increase from the 42 percent who flew last year.

Meanwhile, Airlines for America (A4A), says as many as 42 million passengers will take to the skies between Dec. 17 and Jan. 6, 2013. Daily passenger volumes are expected to range from 1.5 million to 2.3 million fliers, and the busiest days will occur on the weekend preceding Christmas (Dec. 21-23), the day after Christmas and Jan. 2, 2013.

“U.S. carriers are reporting strong bookings relative to capacity this winter holiday period,” A4A Vice President and Chief Economist John Heimlich said in a release. “This is a great time to travel, as carriers are staffed to accommodate the influx of holiday travelers and airfares remain a bargain, having significantly trailed U.S. inflation.”

In the TripAdvisor survey, 49 percent said they are planning to stay with either friends or family, while 42 percent are planning to stay in a hotel. The remaining 9 percent are opting for a vacation rental.

In terms of destinations, TripAdvisor named the following as the top cities travelers will visit this December:

New York City
— Boston
— Chicago
— Los Angeles
San Francisco

“Despite the stresses of holiday travel, nearly half of U.S. respondents will face unafraid the plans that they made to celebrate the festive season with the ones they love,” Brooke Ferencsik, director of communications at TripAdvisor, said in a news release.


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Todd DeFeo

Todd DeFeo jouned The Washington Times Communities in May 2012. He covers travel and Georgia. A marketing professional who never gave up his award-winning journalistic ways, DeFeo revels in the experience and the fact that every place has a story to tell. He also serves as editor of The Travel Trolley.

 

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