Impact of gasoline prices on travel plansAAA estimates the national average price of gasoline will slowly drop through the end of the year and average between $3.20-3.40 a gallon by New Year's Day. Gas prices dropped about 50 cents a gallon on average from September through early December, but remain at record highs for this time of year. AAA does not expect gas prices to have a major impact on travel volume, but consumers could have more money to spend on holiday shopping, dining and entertainment if prices drop through December as expected.
Automobile travel remains dominant mode of transportation, air travel increasesApproximately 90 percent of travelers (84.4 million) plan to travel by automobile this holiday season. This is a 1.3 percent increase over the 83.3 million people who traveled by auto last year. Air travel is expected to increase 4.5 percent as six percent of travelers or 5.6 million will take to the skies.
Those traveling by air will find lower airfares according to AAA's Leisure Travel Index. For the year-end holiday period the average lowest round-trip rate is $203 for the top 40 U.S. air routes, a three percent decrease from last year. Approximately 3.3 million travelers will choose other modes of transportation, including rail, bus and cruise ship.
Hotel rates to increase slightly, car rental rates increase 41 percentAccording to AAA's Leisure Travel Index, year-end holiday hotel rates for AAA Three Diamond lodgings are expected to increase two percent from a year ago, with travelers spending an average of $129 per night compared to $126 last year. Travelers planning to stay at AAA Two Diamond hotels can expect to pay three percent more, at an average cost of $95 per night. Daily car rental rates will average $56, compared to $40 last year.Average travel distance increasesAccording to the survey of intended travelers, the average distance traveled by Americans during holiday period is expected to be 760 miles, further than last year when travelers planned to log 726 miles. Median spending up nearly six percent; top activities are dining and spending time with loved ones Median spending is expected to be $759, a six percent increase compared to the expected median spending of intended holiday travelers ($718) last year. Dining (67 percent) and spending time with family and friends (66 percent) and are the most popular activities planned by travelers. It is not surprising that during holiday season shopping is the third most popular activity with 57 percent expecting to shop. More than one-third (34 percent) of holiday travelers plan to sightsee during their trips.