AAA forecasts 63.9 million Americans will travel 50 miles or more from home during the Christmas holiday period, which is a decrease of 2.1 percent from last year. Although down, this years' travelers represent represent the third largest Christmas holiday travel volume since 2000 and follows a record high of 65.3 million travelers in 2007.
"Economic concerns continue to play an important theme when families and friends are finalizing travel plans," said Jim Hanni, executive vice president for public and government affairs at AAA. "However, an overwhelming number of Americans still plan to use the holidays as a time to visit with friends, families or take a much-deserved vacation. The good news is that many deals are available for travelers, including hotel, Disney, all-inclusive and cruise savings opportunities."
More than 52.4 million Americans (82 percent of all holiday travelers) intend to travel by automobile, a 1.2 percent decrease from the 53 million people who drove last year. Motorists across the country, on average, can expect to see gasoline prices about $1.30 per gallon less than last year and 50 cents less than a month ago.
An estimated 8.1 million (13 percent of holiday travelers) expect to travel by airplane, an 8.5 percent decline from the 8.9 million travelers who flew last year. More than 3.33 million Americans plan to travel by train, bus or other mode of transportation. That is an increase of 0.7 percent from a year ago.
This Christmas/ New Year's holiday travel period, travelers can also expect:
- Fewer flights: Airlines have cut more flights, resulting in a 10 percent drop in capacity during the same time last year
- An early start: One-third of all travelers expect to begin their trip on or before Sunday, Dec. 21
- A busy Christmas Eve: 17% of travelers plan to leave on Christmas Eve
- A long trip: On average, Christmas holiday travelers are expected to travel 1,307 round trip miles from home
- Average spending of under $1,000: Americans expect to spend an average of $842 per trip over Christmas holiday
AAA advises holiday travelers to plan ahead and be prepared during the upcoming travel period. Before leaving home, check driving routes for construction warnings or with airlines for updated departure information.
Bring snacks, games and reading materials to help you and travel companions stay entertained in case of delays. Keep phone numbers for travel agents, hotels and friends or family members handy in the event you need to notify someone that your travel plans have changed.
Research for Christmas holiday travel projections are derived from the Travel Industry Association's (TIA) Holiday Travel Forecast Model. The model was developed based on consumer travel intentions and TIA's quarterly travel forecast data. The travel intentions data are collected through an online survey of nearly 2,300 adults nationwide, supplemented by an additional 5,000 Americans surveyed from the top 10 states of origin in the United States. Historical travel volume and other economic data such as GDP, disposable income, employment and travel costs (including fuel prices) are also incorporated into the model. Analysis of the data and the forecasts are produced by the Travel Industry Association, which conducts special research for AAA.