(WOIO) - 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, Dec. 23 through Sunday, Jan. 3.
"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 Jim Lehman, president of AAA East Central. "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."
AAA says 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 holiday travel
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, according to AAA. 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 gas remains poised to fall below the $2 per gallon benchmark by Christmas. Tuesday's national average is $2, 56 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
According to AAA's Leisure Travel Index, airfares for the top 40 domestic flight routes are 6 percent lower this holiday season, falling to an average of $174 roundtrip. Rates for AAA Three Diamond Rated lodgings will be 4 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, 3 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 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 the country. Members can download the AAA mobile app, visit AAA.com or call 1-800-AAA-HELP to request roadside assistance.
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