AAA: More than 103 million Americans will travel this holiday season; the most on record

NEW YORK, NY - NOVEMBER 21: Passengers walk to their depature gates in LaGuardia Airport as they travel on the day before Thanksgiving on November 21, 2012 in New York, United States. The day before the Thanksgiving holiday is one of the busiest travel days of the year. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

MILWAUKEE — More than 103 million Americans—the most on record—are expected to travel for the year-end holidays, according to AAA.

According to a press release, this represents a 1.5 percent increase, or 1.5 million more people traveling, compared with last year. This comes despite one fewer travel day this holiday season. The year-end holiday travel period is defined as Friday, December 23rd to Monday, January 2nd, 2017.

In Wisconsin, 2.14 million people will be traveling for the holiday weekend, which is a 1.7 percent increase from 2015. Of those travelers, 1.96 million (92 percent) will be driving, and increase of 1.8 percent from last year. More than 113,000 (5.2 percent) will be flying to their destination, a 2.8 percent increase from 2015.

Gas prices across Wisconsin are on average are $2.14, up from $1.93 in 2015. Travelers heading out of state will generally see lower prices in Minnesota and higher prices in Illinois, Iowa and Michigan.

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.

A press release from AAA indicates 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.

“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.”

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.

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 AAA.com bookings.

  1. Las Vegas, Nevada
  2. Orlando, Florida
  3. New York City
  4. San Diego, California
  5. 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. Members can download the AAA Mobile app, visit AAA.com or call 1-800-AAA-HELP to request roadside assistance.

For motorists who may encounter winter weather conditions during their holiday road trips, AAA recommends checking windshield wipers and inspecting 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.

Before hitting the road, drivers should also get plenty of sleep to avoid driving drowsy. Research from the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety found that drivers who miss just one to two hours of the recommended seven hours of sleep nearly double their risk for a crash. For long trips, drivers should travel at times when normally awake, schedule a break every two hours or every 100 miles, avoid heavy foods, travel with an alert passenger and take turns driving, and avoid medications that cause drowsiness or other impairment.