AAA projects 94.5 million Americans will journey 50 miles or more from home during the year-end holiday season, an increase of 0.6 percent from the 94 million people who traveled last year—and the highest travel volume recorded for the season.
For the fifth consecutive year, more Americans will travel during the 12-day holiday period defined as Saturday, Dec. 21, to Wednesday, Jan. 1. The increase, though modest, results from the calendar effect of adding one more travel day this year compared to last, and a willingness by travelers to stretch their budgets to make it happen.
“The country’s economic health is generally the best predictor of travel behavior, but this year’s expected increase has more to do with Americans’ desire to be with friends and family,” said AAA Idaho spokesman Dave Carlson. “Economic growth has stagnated and consumer confidence has fallen, but Americans will not be scrooges when it comes to traveling this year.”
Highlights from the 2013 Year-End Holiday Travel Forecast are:
- 94.5 million: number of travelers nationwide, up 0.6 percent from 94 million a year ago.
- 91 percent: portion of all travelers going by motor vehicle.
- 805 miles: average travel distance, up 45 miles from last year’s 760 miles.
- $765: median U.S. spending intended by holiday travelers, up from $459 a year ago.
- $812: median Idaho and Mountain region spending by holiday travelers.
- 35 percent: portion of a typical family travel budget allocated for transportation. Fuel and gas expenses account for 12 percent of the travel holiday budget for Idahoans who will drive. That works out to about $97, for each traveling Idaho family.
- 449,000: number of Idahoans expected to ride or drive 50 miles or more from home by car.
Only once in the past decade has there been a change in travel volume greater than 5 percent and that was a decline in 2007 as the recession was just getting started. This holiday is the least volatile, AAA says, as Americans are not swayed by economic decisions when it comes to an opportunity to be with their families.
”Americans will not be scrooges when it comes to traveling this year.”
Auto travel remains dominant travel mode
Approximately 91 percent of travelers, or 85.8 million people, plan to travel by automobile during the year-end holidays. This is a 0.9 percent increase over the 85.1 million people who traveled by auto last year.
Idaho motorists will find that gas prices are about 15 cents lower than a year ago. December 2010 is the last time Idahoans paid a lower price for regular grade gasoline on Dec. 17. That year, average price was $2.93.
Based on AAA’s Daily Fuel Gauge Report (www.fuelgaugereport.AAA.com), Idaho’s average price is $3.12. The U.S. average price is $3.22, down four cents from a year ago. Seasonal demand is rising somewhat, but rising supplies and increased refinery production should keep prices stable or slightly lower by year’s end.
Air travel is expected to decrease 1.4 percent as 5.53 million travelers will take to the skies. Other modes of travel—including bus, train, cruise and multimodal—will account for the remaining 3.3 percent of total person-trips, representing 3.1 million travelers.
AAA Idaho expects 449,000 Idahoans will be passengers or drivers in motor vehicles traveling at least 50 miles from home during the 12-day period.
AAA’s projections are based on economic forecasting and research by IHS Global Insight. The Colorado-based business information provider teamed with AAA beginning in 2009 to jointly analyze travel trends during the major holidays.