AAA: One-in-Three Americans Will Travel this Holiday Season, the Most on Record

MADISON, Wisc. (December 13, 2018) – AAA forecasts that more than one-third of Americans will travel this holiday season. The record-breaking 112.5 million travelers taking to the nation’s runways, roads and rails for the year-end holidays represents a 4.4 percent increase over last year and the most since AAA has been tracking holiday travel. Locally, more than 2.3 million Wisconsin residents will travel, an increase of 4.7 percent over 2017.
 
For the more than 102 million people who will pack up their cars for a holiday road trip, INRIX, a global mobility analytics company, predicts travel times in the most congested cities in the U.S. could be as much as four times longer than a normal trip. 
 
“’Tis the season for holiday travel, and more Americans than ever will journey to spend time with friends and family or choose to take a vacation,” said Bryan Shilling, managing director, AAA Travel products and services. “Strong economic growth fueled by robust consumer spending continues to drive strong demand for seasonal travel. With a record-breaking one-third of the country choosing to travel this holiday, roadways and airports are sure to be busy.”
 
The year-end holiday travel period is defined as Saturday, December 22 through Tuesday, January 1, 2019. The 11-day span is one day longer than last year, due to Christmas and New Year’s Day falling on Tuesdays this year.
 
By the Numbers: 2018 Year-End Holiday Travel Forecast
 

 
Holiday Hotspots
Based on historical and recent travel trends, INRIX expects drivers to experience the greatest amount of congestion before the holiday week – starting on Wednesday, December 19 – as commuters and holiday travelers mix on our nation’s busiest roadways. Drivers in Atlanta, New York City, Boston and Houston will see travel times more than three times a normal trip.
 
“With a record-level number of travelers hitting the road this holiday, drivers must be prepared for delays in major metro areas – with Thursday, December 20 being the nation’s worst day to travel,” says Trevor Reed, transportation analyst at INRIX. “Our advice is to avoid traveling during peak commuting hours. If schedules allow, leave bright and early, or after the morning commute.”
 
Falling Gas Prices Motivating More Holiday Travelers to Drive
While gas has been relatively expensive throughout this year, a recent drop to the cheapest national gas price averages of the year, combined with rising disposable income, is motivating more Americans to hit the road this holiday season. Gas prices averaged $2.46 for the first week of December, which is two cents per gallon less than one year ago.
 
Best Times to Fly and Book Christmas Flights
An analysis of AAA’s flight booking data from the last three years revealed that most holiday air travelers depart two or three days before Christmas and return the day after the holiday. This holiday season, Saturday, December 22, Sunday, December 23 and Wednesday, December 26 will be the busiest days in the skies and at the airports. Fewer holiday travelers choose to fly on Christmas Eve (Monday, December 24) and Christmas Day (Tuesday, December 25), which are the lightest travel days around the Christmas holiday.
 
Day 3-Year Average Ticket Price Expected Crowds
Saturday (Dec. 22, 2018) $590 Heavy
Sunday (Dec. 23, 2018) $564 Heavy
Monday (Dec. 24, 2018) $512 Light
Tuesday (Dec. 25, 2018) $564 Light
Wednesday (Dec. 26, 2018) $666 Heavy
 
Most travelers booked their Christmas flights between October 26 and November 27, paying an average ticket price of $561 roundtrip. Last-minute planners who book between December 12-18 this year can expect to pay the lowest average airfares, at $488. However, those travelers risk encountering limited availability and their preferred flights may already be sold out.
 
Car Rental Costs Reach 10-Year High, Hotel Prices Mixed
Holiday road trippers should budget slightly more for a rental car this year, as daily rates have increased 3 percent over last year. At $76, the daily average car rental rate this holiday season is the most expensive in 10 years. Travelers will also pay a bit more at AAA Two Diamond hotels, where prices are 1 percent more than last year, or $122 per night. Conversely, the average rate for AAA Three Diamond hotels has fallen 3 percent to an average nightly cost of $152.
 
AAA to Rescue More Than 960,000 Motorists
AAA expects to rescue more than 960,000 motorists at the roadside this year-end holiday period. Dead batteries, lockouts and flat tires will be the leading reasons AAA members will experience car trouble. AAA recommends motorists take their vehicle to a trusted repair facility to perform any needed maintenance before heading out. Oil changes, fluid level checks, battery tests and tire inspections go a long way toward reducing the chances of a breakdown. Members who require roadside assistance can call the toll free number (800-222-4357 or 800-AAA-Help), or contact AAA via www.AAA.com or the AAA mobile app.
 
According to the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety, 46 percent of all crashes involving bad weather take place in the winter. AAA encourages drivers to be vigilant when hitting the road this winter and to always stay prepared by carrying an emergency roadside kit containing a mobile phone and car charger, first-aid kit, blankets, drinking water and snacks, a flashlight with extra batteries, a basic toolkit, warning flares, an ice scraper, jumper cables and a shovel.
 
Download the AAA Mobile App Before the Holidays
Before heading out on a holiday road trip, download the free AAA Mobile app for iPhone, iPad and Android. Travelers can use the app to map a route, find the 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 nearly 59,000 AAA Diamond Rated hotels and restaurants. AAA’s is the only rating system that uses full-time, professionally trained inspectors to evaluate each property on an annual basis. Every AAA Inspected & 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.
 
About the AAA Year-End Holiday Travel Forecast:
AAA’s projections are based on economic forecasting and research by IHS Markit. The London-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 Markit 2018 year-end holiday travel forecast is available here.
 
 
About INRIX:
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. Learn more at INRIX.com.
 
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 9.6 million members across eleven 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 59 million members in the United States and Canada and whose mission includes protecting and advancing freedom of mobility and improving traffic safety.  New auto insurance products are available in Florida.  Features include: Enhanced Total Loss Coverage, AAA Membership Discount, Disappearing Deductible and much more!