For the first time ever, year-end holiday travelers are expected to top the 100-million mark, with one out of three Americans taking a trip this season and 100 million likely to move at least 50 miles from home.
The American Automobile Association forecasts a 1.4 percent rise in holiday travelers from 2014 to 2015. This year will also be the seventh consecutive year of year-end travel growth. The year-end travel period will be from Dec. 23, 2015 to Jan. 3, 2015.
AAA said the recorded 100.5 million holiday travelers should lead to a robust travel season. According to the nonprofit organization, what drives the climb in holiday travel is the continued improvement in labor market, as well as low prices and rising incomes. Gas prices, for instance, stay well below actual levels last year.
“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,” said Marshall Doney, AAA's president and CEO.
These factors help boost the disposable incomes of Americans, but some, according to AAA, remain wary about their finances as they plunge into the most wonderful time of the year.
A labor department report back in November, for instance, estimated that the average hourly earnings have risen to 2.3 percent compared to last year, and the unemployment rate is seen dipping an annual 0.8 percent rate.
The AAA’s full Year-End Holiday Travel Forecast [pdf] for 2015 also noted that driving remains the most preferred mode of travel among holiday revelers, with over 90 percent or 91.3 million people driving to their destinations.
Air travel this holiday will remain relatively stable, making it the second highest air travel volume since 2006. It is expected to rise by 0.7 percent, with about 5.8 million flying over the holidays. Travel via cruises, buses, and trains is also projected to increase by 3.4 million holiday travelers, translating to a 2.4 percent rise.
The lowest New Year’s gas prices since 2009 are also anticipated, with the national average gasoline price per gallon likely to hit below the $2 per gallon mark by Christmas. The current $2.01 national average is already 53 cents less than in 2014.
Photo : Richard P. J. Lambert | Flickr