AAA projects 92.3 million Americans will travel 50 miles or more from home during the year-end holidays, an increase of 3.1 percent from the 89.5 million who traveled a year ago. The year-end holidays travel period is defined as Thursday, Dec. 23, 2010 to Sunday, Jan. 2, 2011.
"It's great to see so many Americans taking to the roads, rails and skies this holiday season, especially since this is the fifth consecutive holiday period this year in which AAA has predicted a year-to-year increase in the number of travelers," said Glen MacDonell, director, AAA Travel Services. "After a challenging year in 2009, a modestly improved economic environment and pent-up demand resulted in more Americans traveling in 2010, and the year-end holidays are no exception."
More than nine out of 10 will drive to their holiday destinations
Approximately 85.7 million people (93 percent of all holiday travelers) will drive to their year-end holidays destinations. That represents a 3.2 percent increase from the 83 million who drove last year.
Number of air travelers expected to increase by nearly 3 percent
Nearly 2.75 million leisure air travelers (three percent of holiday travelers) will take to the skies during the year-end holidays, marking a 2.8 percent increase from last year's 2.67 million air travelers. The remaining 4 percent of holiday travelers are expected to travel by other modes, including rail, bus and watercraft.
Average travel distance up 33 percent; median spending about 3.5 percent more than last year
According to a survey of traveler intentions, the average distance traveled by Americans during the year-end holidays is expected to be 1,052 miles, which is 33 percent more than last year's average travel distance of 791 miles. Median spending is expected to be $694. Median spending a year ago was $670. Similar to Thanksgiving, a majority of survey respondents (75 percent) reported that the main purpose of their upcoming trip was a visit with friends or family.
Hotel rates increase, airfares decrease and car rental rates unchanged compared to a year ago
According to AAA's Leisure Travel Index, hotel rates for AAA Three Diamond lodgings over the year-end holidays are expected to increase five percent from a year ago with travelers spending an average of $125 per night compared to $119 last year. Travelers planning to stay at AAA Two Diamond hotels can expect to pay two percent more at an average cost of $88 per night. Airfares are expected to be three percent less than last year with an average lowest round-trip rate of $174 for the top 40 U.S. air routes. Weekend daily car rental rates will remain unchanged at an average of $50.