ORLANDO, Fla., Dec. 15, 2015 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- AAA projects the number of year-end holiday travelers will top 100 million for the first time on record. Nearly one in three Americans will take a trip this holiday season, with 100.5 million expected to journey 50 miles or more from home. This represents a 1.4 percent increase over last year and the seventh consecutive year of year-end holiday travel growth. The year-end holiday travel period is defined as Wednesday, December 23, 2015 to Sunday, January 3, 2016.
"The holidays are a time for joining with friends and family, and the record number of people traveling this holiday should make for a joyous travel season," said Marshall Doney, AAA President and CEO. "Rising incomes and low gas prices are helping to fill stockings this year, and more people than ever will choose to spend those savings on travel this year."
The increase in holiday travel this year is being driven by continued improvement in the labor market, rising incomes and low prices, including gas prices that remain well below last year's levels. This is helping boost Americans' disposable income, but some consumers continue to remain cautious about their finances as they head into the holiday season.
Driving remains most popular mode of travel for year-end holidays
More than 90 percent of travelers (91.3 million people) will drive to their holiday destinations, an increase of 1.4 percent over last year. Air travel is expected to increase by 0.7 percent, with 5.8 million Americans flying to their holiday destinations. Travel by other modes of transportation, including cruises, trains and buses, will increase 2.4 percent, to 3.4 million travelers.
Lowest New Year's gas prices in seven years expected
The national average price for a gallon of gasoline remains poised to fall below the $2 per gallon benchmark by Christmas. Today's national average is $2.01, 55 cents less than last year. AAA expects most U.S. drivers will pay the lowest gas prices on New Year's Day since 2009.
Airfares fall, hotel and car rental rates rise modestly
According to AAA's Leisure Travel Index, airfares for the top 40 domestic flight routes are six percent lower this holiday season, falling to an average of $174 roundtrip. Rates for AAA Three Diamond Rated lodgings will be four percent higher this year, with travelers spending an average of $150 per night. The average rate for a AAA Two Diamond Rated hotel has risen 11 percent with an average nightly cost of $119. Daily car rental rates will average $68, three percent higher than last year's holiday travel season.
#AAAToTheRescue for nearly 900,000 motorists this holiday season
AAA expects to rescue nearly 900,000 motorists during the 12-day year-end holiday travel period, with the primary reasons being dead batteries, lockouts and flat tires. AAA recommends motorists check the condition of their battery and tires for winter driving before heading out on a holiday getaway. Also, have vehicles inspected by a trusted repair shop, such as one of the nearly 7,000 AAA Approved Auto Repair facilities across North America. Members can download the AAA Mobile app, visit AAA.com or call 1-800-AAA-HELP to request roadside assistance.
AAA cautions against impaired driving this holiday season
According to the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety's Traffic Safety Culture Index, one in five licensed drivers (21 percent) who drink at least occasionally reported having driven when they thought their alcohol level might have been close to, or possibly over, the legal limit in the past year.
"As we celebrate the holiday season, AAA urges travelers to be cautious about their safety and the safety of everyone sharing the roadways," said Doney. "Ninety-seven percent of licensed drivers consider it unacceptable to drive when they may have had too much to drink, yet there is an average of one alcohol-impaired driving death every 53 minutes."
Download the AAA Mobile app before a year-end holiday getaway
Before setting out on a holiday trip, download the free AAA Mobile app for iPhone, iPad and Android. Travelers can use the app to map a route, find lowest gas prices, access exclusive member discounts, make travel arrangements, request AAA roadside assistance, find AAA Approved Auto Repair facilities and more. Learn more at AAA.com/mobile.
With the AAA Mobile app, travelers can also find more than 58,000 AAA Approved and Diamond Rated hotels and restaurants via TripTik Travel Planner. AAA's is the only rating system that uses full-time, professionally trained evaluators to inspect each property on an annual basis. Every AAA Approved establishment offers the assurance of acceptable cleanliness, comfort and hospitality, and ratings of One to Five Diamonds help travelers find the right match for amenities and services.
AAA's projections are based on economic forecasting and research by IHS Global Insight. The Colorado-based business information provider teamed with AAA in 2009 to jointly analyze travel trends during major holidays. AAA has been reporting on holiday travel trends for more than two decades. The complete AAA/IHS Global Insight 2015 year-end holiday travel forecast can be found here.
As North America's largest motoring and leisure travel organization, AAA provides more than 55 million members with travel, insurance, financial and automotive-related services. Since its founding in 1902, the not-for-profit, fully tax-paying AAA has been a leader and advocate for the safety and security of all travelers. AAA clubs can be visited on the Internet at AAA.com. For more information about AAA Travel, visit AAA.com/Travel.
AAA news releases, high-resolution images, broadcast-quality video, fact sheets and podcasts are available on the AAA NewsRoom at NewsRoom.AAA.com.