Year-End Holiday Travel to Reach Record Highs
115.6 million Americans (6.1 million Floridians) are forecast to travel for the holidays
More than 6.1 million Floridians will help set a new travel record for the last holidays of the year.
AAA forecasts 115.6 million Americans will travel 50 miles or more between Saturday, December 21 and Wednesday, January 1. This would be the largest travel volume since AAA began tracking in 2000.
U.S. and Florida Travel Estimates
- Total Travelers:
- Americans - 115.6 million (4.3 million more than last year)
- Floridians - 6.1 million (300,000 more than last year)
- These figures are record highs for both the U.S. and Florida
- Americans - 104.8 million (3.9 million more than last year)
- Floridians - 5.5 million (200,000 more than last year)
- More people will drive this holiday season than ever before
- Americans - 6.97 million (300,000 more than last year)
- Floridians - 332,500 (15,500 more than last year)
- With 4.9% growth, air travel will see the biggest increase in travel volume during the year-end holidays - the most since 2003.
- Trains, Buses and Cruise Ships:
- Americans - 3.81 million (111,000 more than last year)
- Floridians - 230,600 (9,300 more than last year)
“Holiday cheer is at an all-time high this year, with unemployment at historically low levels, and noted improvements in both disposable income and household net worth,” said Mark Jenkins, spokesman, AAA – The Auto Club Group. “Travelers should be getting used to crowded highways and airports, as this marks the eighth straight year of new record-high travel volumes for the year-end holidays.”
Busiest Travel Days
On the road – For the 104.8 million Americans traveling by automobile, INRIX, in collaboration with AAA, predicts only marginal delays throughout the holiday week. Nationally, drivers could experience double the travel times on Thursday and Friday afternoon.
At the airport – AAA’s flight booking data revealed that most travelers depart two to four days prior to the Christmas holiday, Dec. 21-23, with the 22nd being the single busiest air travel day of the holiday week. Christmas Eve is the best day to travel, with the lowest average price per ticket ($527) and the fewest crowds of the holiday week.
Gas Prices Should Drop Before the Holidays
Gas prices have been somewhat erratic this month. Since jumping 11 cents last week, the state average has steadily declined a penny per day the past five consecutive days.
Florida gas prices are currently averaging around $2.50 per gallon. The state average is 2 cents more than a week ago, 10 cents more than last month, and 21 cents more than this time last year. The year-over-year increase is largely due to higher crude oil prices – which are $7 per barrel more than this time last year.
During last year’s holiday period, Florida gas prices averaged $2.20 per gallon. In that time, the state average declined from $2.25 on December 21, to $2.16 on January 1.
“The state average may not return to last year’s levels in time for the holidays, but lower gas prices are coming,” said Mark Jenkins, spokesman, AAA – The Auto Club Group. “Gasoline supplies have risen sharply during the past week, while demand has slumped. This should help send the state average below $2.40 per gallon before Christmas.”
As an added bonus for holiday road trippers, AAA members who register in the Fuel Rewards at Shell program through Dec. 31, 2019 can receive an additional 25 cents per gallon discount on their first fill up after registering as a new Fuel Rewards member, on top of the everyday 5-cent discount (30 cents total).
AAA to rescue more than 853,000 at the roadside
More than 853,000 motorists will call AAA for assistance at the roadside this holiday season. Dead batteries, flat tires and lockouts will be the leading reasons AAA members will experience car trouble. AAA recommends motorists take their vehicles to a trusted repair facility to perform any needed maintenance before heading out on a road trip. And remember to slow down and move over for stopped emergency vehicles at the roadside. It’s the law in all 50 states.
Minimize Stress; Prevent Road Rage
The holidays can be a stressful time; AAA encourages drivers to maintain a cool head, and focus on reaching their destination safely. AAA offers these tips to help prevent road rage:
- Do Not Offend: Never cause another driver to change their speed or direction. That means not forcing another driver to use their brakes, or turn the steering wheel in response to something you have done.
- Be Tolerant and Forgiving: The other driver may just be having a really bad day. Assume that it is not personal.
- Do Not Respond: Avoid eye contact, don’t make gestures, maintain space around your vehicle and contact 9-1-1 if needed.
Hotel prices fluctuate slightly; car rental rates reach 10-year high
Travelers will need to budget more for car rentals this holiday season. According to AAA’s Leisure Travel Index, the daily average rental rate this Christmas and New Year’s will reach $84, 11% more than last year and the highest price in 10 years. AAA Three Diamond hotel prices have increased 1% to $153, while AAA Two Diamond hotels will average $119, 2% less than last year.
Theme parks, warm-weather destinations & NYC top holiday getaways
Theme parks in Orlando and southern California, other warm-weather locales, and the iconic holiday destination New York City top the list of 10 most popular destinations in the U.S. for the year-end holidays, based on advance AAA Travel bookings:
- Orlando, FL
- Anaheim, CA
- Honolulu, HI
- Kahului, Maui, HI
- Las Vegas, NV
- Ft. Lauderdale, FL
- New York, NY
- Miami, FL
- Tampa, FL
- Phoenix, AZ
Many travelers are also seeking warm weather and sandy beaches in Mexico and the Caribbean this holiday season. Cancun, Mexico; Punta Cana, Dominican Republic; Montego Bay, Jamaica; Los Cabos, Mexico; and Puerto Vallarta, Mexico, are AAA’s top five international destinations for the year-end holidays.
AAA’s travel experts remind travelers that it’s not too late to begin planning a holiday getaway. Visit AAA.com/Travel for travel planning resources to book your trip today.
AAA’s projections are based on economic forecasting and research by IHS Markit, a London-based business information provider. For the purposes of this forecast, the year-end holiday travel period is defined as the 12-day period from Saturday, Dec. 21 to Wednesday, Jan. 1.
In cooperation with AAA, IHS Markit developed a unique methodology to forecast actual domestic travel volumes, using macroeconomic drivers such as employment; output; household net worth; asset prices including stock indices; interest rates; housing market indicators and variables related to travel and tourism, including prices of gasoline, airline travel and hotel stays.
About The Auto Club Group
The Auto Club Group (ACG) is the second largest AAA club in North America. ACG and its affiliates provide membership, insurance, financial services and travel offerings to over 9.9 million members across 11 states and two U.S. territories including Florida, Georgia, Iowa, Michigan, Nebraska, North Dakota, Tennessee, Wisconsin, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands; most of Illinois and Minnesota; and a portion of Indiana. ACG belongs to the national AAA federation with more than 60 million members in the United States and Canada and whose mission includes protecting and advancing freedom of mobility and improving traffic safety. Motorists can map a route, identify gas prices, find discounts, book a hotel, and access AAA roadside assistance with the AAA Mobile app for iPhone, iPad and Android. Learn more at AAA.com/mobile. Visit AAA on the Internet at AAA.com.
INRIX is the global leader in connected car services and transportation analytics. Leveraging big data and the cloud, INRIX delivers comprehensive services and solutions to help move people, cities and businesses forward. Our partners are automakers, governments, mobile operators, developers, advertisers, as well as enterprises large and small.