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AAA: Record-breaking 107 million Americans to travel for the holidays

CHICAGO, IL - NOVEMBER 21: The Kennedy Expressway is clogged with cars as rush-hour commuters and Thanksgiving holiday travelers try to make their way through the city on November 21, 2017 in Chicago, Illinois. Holiday traffic in the city is expected to peak during the Tuesday afternoon rush. As many as 45.5 million people are expected to hit the road during the Thanksgiving holiday, the most in more than 10 years. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)

MILWAUKEE — This year Americans are traveling in record numbers. AAA projects 107 million Americans will take to planes, trains, automobiles and other modes of transportation during the year-end holiday period from Saturday, December 23rd through Monday, January 1st.

“Overall, our research shows that Americans are doing better than last year and want to go somewhere for the holidays,” said Vicky Evans, Assistant Vice President, AAA Travel. “Whether they are going home or visiting a new destination, Americans have more money to finance their travel plans, thanks to a stronger economy and growing consumer confidence.

According to AAA, 2017 marks the ninth consecutive year of rising year-end holiday travel.

“Depending on where your travels take you, consider using a travel agent to plan your final trip of the year,” Evans continued. “Of course, winter weather can be unpredictable, and cause unexpected issues like flight delays or cancellations. If that happens to you, the right travel insurance plan will help offset out-of-pocket expenses.”

By the Numbers: 2017 Year-End Holiday Travel Forecast from AAA:

  • All Travel Modes: 107.3 million Americans will travel 50 miles or more (3.2 million more than last year)
    • 2.2 million Wisconsinites will travel 50 miles or more (3.4% or 73,000 more people than last year)
  • Automobiles: The majority of travelers – 97.4 million – will hit the road (a 3 percent year-over-year increase)
    • 2 million Wisconsinites will hit the road (3.3% or 67,000 more people than last year)
  • Planes: 6.4 million people will travel by air, a 4.1 percent increase and the fourth year of consecutive air travel volume increases
    • 118,000 Wisconsinites will travel by air during the holiday period (4.2% or 5,000 more people than last year)
  • Trains, Buses, Rails and Cruise Ships: Travel across these sectors will increase by 2.2 percent to 3.6 million
    • 69,000 Wisconsinites will use these alternate modes of transportation (2.8% or 2,000 more people than last year)

Travel Tip: Try to avoid traveling through major cities during peak travel times. The best times to leave are typically early morning or after the morning commute because the roads should be less crowded and you will have more time to get to your destination safely. If your schedule permits, traveling on the holiday itself often results in fewer cars on the road.

Pump Prices to Decline

The 90 percent of holiday travelers choosing to drive will find the most expensive year-end gas prices since 2014. This national average price as of December 12th was $2.45, which is 24 cents more than last year on that date, but 11 cents less than it was a month ago. The good news is that AAA does expect the average to continue dropping through the end of the year, saving motorists a few pennies at the pump.  Up to date gas prices, including state and metro averages, can be found at Gasprices.AAA.com.

Airfare and hotel rates trend cheaper, car rentals increase year-over-year, according to AAA:

Airfares – Holiday airfares are nearly 20 percent cheaper than last year. At $165, the average end of year holiday airfare for a round-trip flight for the top 40 domestic routes is at a five-year low, according to AAA’s Leisure Travel Index. On average, 2017 airfares are 5 percent less expensive compared to 2016. Overall, competition, capacity over-expansion and lower oil prices are contributing to the decline.

Hotels – Travelers can also find savings at AAA Two and Three Diamond Rated hotels. On average, a Three Diamond hotel nightly rate is $156, a two percent year-over-year decrease. The Two Diamond nightly average rate is $121, a five percent decrease from last year.

Rental Cars – Similar to Thanksgiving, car rental rates are more expensive on the year. At $74, the daily car rental rate increased 11 percent. This sets a new five-year record high rate for year-end holiday travel. The increase is on par with the rate increases seen at Thanksgiving.