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Holiday Travel to Reach Highest Level on Record

AAA anticipates more than 93 million people will take a holiday road trip from Dec. 23 to Jan. 2.
December 22, 2016

​ORLANDO, Fla. – More than 103 million Americans—the most on record—are expected to travel for the year-end holidays, according to AAA. This represents a 1.5% 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 23 to Monday, January 2, 2017.

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, according to AAA. 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.

“’Tis the season for holiday travel, and this year more Americans will travel to celebrate the holidays and ring in the New Year than ever before,” said AAA President and CEO Marshall Doney. “Rising incomes and continued low gas prices should make for a joyous holiday travel season.”

Most travelers—93.6 million people—will take a holiday road trip. Air travel is expected to increase by 2.5%, 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.

AAA estimates U.S. drivers have saved more than $27 billion at the gas pump so far this year compared to the same period last year. The national average price for a gallon of gasoline as of Dec. 15 was $2.23, 23 cents more than the average price on New Year’s Day 2016 ($2.00). Most U.S. drivers will pay the second-cheapest New Year’s Day gas prices since 2009, when the national average was $1.62.

With the exception of New York City, warm-weather locales in Nevada, Florida and California top the list of the most popular destinations for this holiday season, based on bookings.

AAA’s projections are based on economic forecasting and research by IHS Markit. AAA has been reporting on holiday travel trends for more than two decades.