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ORLANDO, Fla. — More than 103 million Americans, the most on record, are expected to travel for the year-end holidays, according to AAA. This marks a 1.5-percent increase, or 1.5 million more people traveling, compared to 2015.
The increase comes despite one fewer travel days during the holiday season. The year-end travel period runs from Friday, Dec. 23 to Monday, Jan. 2.
The rise in holiday travel is being driven by additional consumer spending, a result of improvements in the labor market and rising wages, AAA said. Additionally, low gas prices and increased consumer optimism will prompt more Americans to travel for their celebrations.
"'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."
An overwhelming majority of travelers, or 93.6 million people, will drive, an increase of 1.5 percent over last year. Air travel is expected to rise 2.5 percent (more than 6 million), while travel by other modes of transportation, including cruises, trains and buses, will decrease slightly to 3.5 million travelers.
AAA estimates that U.S. drivers have saved more than $27 billion at the gas pumps so far this year compared to the same period last year. The current national average price for a gallon of regular gasoline is $2.22, which is 22 cents more than the average price on New Year's Day 2016 ($2.00). Most drivers in the United States will see the second-cheapest New Year's Day gas prices since 2009, when the national average was $1.62.
The top destinations for holiday travel this year are Las Vegas; Orlando, Fla.; New York; San Diego; and Anaheim, Calif.