Holiday Trippin'

AAA expects travel to increase 1.6%, national average gas price to drop slowly through yearend

ORLANDO, Fla. -- AAA projects 93.3 million Americans will journey 50 miles or more from home during the year-end holidays, an increase of 1.6% over the 91.8 million people who traveled last year. This increase brings holiday travel figures to within half a million of the decade high mark seen during the 2006/2007 season.

The yearend holiday travel period is defined as Saturday, Dec. 22 to Tuesday, Jan. 1, 2013.

AAA estimates the national average price of gasoline will slowly drop through the end of the year and average between $3.20 to $3.40 a gallon by New Year's Day. Gasoline prices dropped about 50 cents a gallon on average from September through early December, but remain at record highs for this time of year.

AAA does not expect gasoline prices to have a major impact on travel volume, but consumers could have more money to spend on holiday shopping, dining and entertainment if prices drop through December as expected.

Approximately 90% of travelers (84.4 million) plan to travel by automobile this holiday season. This is a 1.3% increase over the 83.3 million people who traveled by auto last year. Air travel is expected to increase 4.5% as 6% of travelers or 5.6 million will take to the skies.

According to the survey of intended travelers, the average distance traveled by Americans during holiday period is expected to be 760 miles, further than last year when travelers planned to log 726 miles.

AAA expects median spending to be $759, a 6% increase compared to the expected median spending of intended holiday travelers ($718) last year.

Dining (67%) and spending time with family and friends (66%) and are the most popular activities planned by travelers. It is not surprising that during holiday season shopping is the third most popular activity with 57% expecting to shop. More than one-third (34%) of holiday travelers plan to sightsee during their trips.

Click here to view the full AAA report.

"The yearend 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. 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," said AAA president and CEO Robert Darbelnet.

"As we enter the New Year, one unknown for travel is the looming 'fiscal cliff' and the resulting uncertainty related to near-term tax and benefit changes. Having these items unresolved complicates many travelers' ability to develop an accurate household budget as they plan for future spending and saving decisions. It is important that Congress and the President work together to quickly resolve the situation for the good of the nation," he said.