More than 103 million Americans — the most on record — are expected to travel for the year-end holidays, an increase of 1.5% or 1.5 million more people traveling compared with last year, according to the “AAA/IHS 2016 Year-End Holidays Travel Forecast.”
This increase comes despite one fewer travel day this holiday season. The year-end holiday travel period is defined as Friday Dec. 23 to Monday Jan. 2.
The increase in holiday travel this year is being driven by additional consumer spending, a result of improvements in the labor market, and rising wages, according to AAA.
“’Tis the season for holiday travel, and this year more Americans will travel to celebrate the holidays and ring in the new year than ever before,” said Marshall Doney, AAA’s president and CEO. “Rising incomes and continued low gas prices should make for a joyous holiday travel season.”
The majority of travelers (93.6 million people) will take a road trip this holiday, an increase of 1.5% over last year, according to AAA. Air travel is expected to increase by 2.5%.
Today’s national average for a gallon of gasoline is $2.23, 23 cents more than the average price on New Year’s Day 2016 ($2.00), according to AAA. Most U.S. drivers will pay the second-cheapest New Year’s Day gas prices since 2009, when the national average was $1.62.
Daily car rental rates will average $66, slightly lower than last year’s holiday season travel ($68), according to AAA’s Leisure Travel Index.
This year’s most popular holiday destinations include Las Vegas, Orlando, New York City, San Diego, and Anaheim, Calif.
AAA’s projections are based on economic forecasting and research by IHS Markit, a business information provider.