U.S. highways and airports are going to be a bit more crowded during this year’s holiday season. The AAA has forecast year-over-year growth of 1.5% for the period between December 23 and January 2 to 103.1 million travelers, the highest total ever. Most (91%) will travel by car, while 6% will fly and the rest will travel primarily by bus or on cruise ships.
Four of this year’s top five holiday destinations are warm-weather cities, and two are near popular Disney resorts. The top destination is Las Vegas, with Orlando, New York City, San Diego and Anaheim rounding out the top five. The ranking is based on AAA bookings.
A combination of economic factors account for the travel increase this year: more consumer spending due to rising incomes and job growth, household net worth up 4.2% year over year as equities markets continue to charge ahead, and rising levels of consumer optimism. Gasoline prices, though 23 cents a gallon higher than a year ago, are forecast to remain at their second-lowest New Year’s Day level since 2009 for most U.S. drivers.
Holiday airfares are projected to average $204 for a round-trip ticket among the country’s top 40 domestic routes. Lodging rates are forecast to rise 7% at AAA Two and Three Diamond-rated establishments, while car rental fees are forecast to be slightly lower than a year ago.
If you plan to travel by car for the holidays, AAA recommends checking windshield wipers and inspecting tires to ensure safe drivability before starting your trip. A winter emergency road kit is also recommended. AAA said it expects to rescue more than 980,000 motorists during the 11-day holiday season this year.