AAA Year-End Travel Forecast Project 102M Travelers

Staff Report From Georgia CEO

Friday, December 16th, 2016

More than 103 million Americans will travel for the year-end holidays, according to AAA’s Year-End Holiday Travel Forecast. This represents a 1.5 percent increase, or 1.5 million more travelers than last year, and the highest total volume since AAA began tracking holiday travel data in 2001.

“This will be the most-traveled year-end holiday season on record, particularly for those who drive,” said Joseph J. Richardson Jr., President and CEO, AAA – The Auto Club Group. “If you are planning a road trip, now is the time to get your vehicle inspected. Look for a facility displaying the 'AAA Approved Auto Repair' sign to ensure a trustworthy inspection that could catch any problems before they arise.”

The increase in holiday travel this year is being driven by additional consumer spending, a result of improvements in the labor market and rising wages. Additionally, low gas prices and increased consumer optimism will prompt more Americans than ever to set out on road trips, take to the skies, or board trains, buses and cruise ships to celebrate the holidays. Click here to view the complete AAA/IHS 2016 year-end holiday travel forecast.

2016-17 Year-End Holiday Forecast Summary

- 103.1 million Americans will travel 50 miles or more

- The year-end holiday travel period is defined as Friday, December 23 to Monday, January 2, 2017 - one fewer day than last year’s holiday

- A record number of Americans will drive (93.6 million)

- Six million Americans will fly - the fourth-highest volume of air passengers (the top three were 2002/03 - 7.3 million, 2003/04 - 7.1 million, and 2004/05 - 6.4 million)

- "Other modes" volume fell 0.3% (10,000 fewer Americans than 2015). The decline is attributed to a shift toward more auto and air travelers

- Gas prices on New Year's Day will likely be higher than the average on January 1, 2016. Pump prices could also rival those on 1/1/15, but remain below year-end holiday levels dating back to 2009.

- Compared to last year, average prices are $30 higher for Airfares ($204), $2 lower for car rentals ($66), $9 higher for AAA Two Diamond-Rated Hotels ($128), and $10 higher for AAA Three Diamond-Rated hotels ($160)

- AAA expects to rescue more than 980,000 motorists over the 11-day holiday travel period

Most travelers will drive this holiday season

The vast majority of travelers—93.6 million people—will take a holiday road trip, an increase of 1.5 percent over last year. Air travel is expected to increase by 2.5 percent, with more than 6 million Americans flying to their holiday destinations. Travel by other modes of transportation, including cruises, trains and buses, will decrease slightly, to 3.5 million travelers.

New Year’s gas prices could be the highest in three years

AAA estimates U.S. drivers have saved more than $27 billion at the gas pumps so far this year compared to the same period last year. Today's average price for a gallon of gasoline is $2.23 nationwide and $2.31 in Florida. Gasoline will likely cost more on New Year's Day 2017 than the year before ($2.00), and could rival levels set on January 1, 2015 ($2.24). In Florida, the average price on New Year's Day was $2.00 in 2016 and $2.34 in 2015. Most U.S. drivers will pay the second or third-cheapest New Year’s Day gas prices since 2009, when the average was $1.62 nationwide and $1.64 in Florida. Click here to view current national, state, and metro average gas prices.

Holiday airfares, hotel rates and car rental prices mixed

According to AAA’s Leisure Travel Index, holiday airfares are projected to average $204 for a roundtrip flight along the top 40 domestic routes. Rates for AAA Two and Three Diamond Rated lodgings are expected to increase 7 percent, with travelers spending an average of $128 and $160 per night, respectively. Daily car rental rates will average $66, slightly lower than last year’s holiday travel season.

Warm-weather destinations top the list of most popular holiday destinations

With the exception of New York City—an-ever popular holiday destination—warm-weather locales in Nevada, Florida and California top the list of most popular destinations for this holiday season, based on bookings.

- Las Vegas, Nevada

- Orlando, Florida

- New York City

- San Diego, California

- Anaheim, California

AAA to rescue more than 980,000 motorists this holiday season

AAA expects to rescue more than 980,000 motorists over the 11-day holiday travel period, with the primary reasons being dead batteries, flat tires and lockouts. Drivers should have their 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 or call 1-800-AAA-HELP to request roadside assistance.

Safe Driving Tips for Motorists

- Check windshield wipers and inspect tires to ensure safe drivability before setting out

- Pack an emergency kit containing a snow shovel, flashlight, ice scraper, jumper cables, warning devices and extra warm clothing for everyone riding in the vehicle

- When driving, slow down and do not tailgate

- Leave following distances to a minimum of five to six seconds to allow additional braking room should a sudden stop become necessary

- Minimize distractions while behind the wheel