Less than a month after a busy Thanksgiving travel period, Americans are again on the move. And like Thanksgiving, travel over the upcoming Christmas and New Year's holiday is likely to show an increase compared to last year, says AAA Northeast.
In fact, more than 103 million Americans -- the most on record and a 1.7 percent increase from last year -- are expected to travel over the year-end holidays. And the increase comes despite one fewer travel day this year: the year-end travel period runs from Friday, Dec. 23, to Monday, Jan. 2.
Of the overall 103 million travelers,
- 91 percent or 93.6 million people plan to drive, which reflects a 1.5 percent increase;
- 6 percent or 6 million plan to fly, which reflects a 2.5 percent increase; and
- 3 percent or 3.5 million will take a train, bus or some other mode of transportation, including one traveler who says he'll make a round-the-world journey by sleigh late Dec. 24.
Contributing to the record travel numbers is relatively low gas prices nationally and rising incomes that allow travelers to spend more on travel.
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 New England region, with more than 4.4 million travelers expected on the roads and in the skies, will outpace most of the country, with an increase of 2.5 percent over 2015.
The national average price for a gallon of gasoline on Dec. 19 was $2.24, 24 cents more than the average price this time last year, which was $2. However, most U.S. drivers will pay the second-cheapest year end gas prices since 2009, when the national average was $1.62.
In Connecticut, that average price was $2.38 a gallon, up 20 cents from last year.
According to AAA's Leisure Travel Index, holiday airfares are projected to average $204 for a roundtrip flight along the top 40 domestic routes. Rates for AAA Two- and Three -Diamond Rated lodgings are expected to increase 7 percent, with travelers spending an average of $128 and $160 per night, respectively.
Daily car rental rates will average $66, which is actually slightly lower than last year's holiday travel season.
The top five destinations through www.aaa.com for the holiday include Las Vegas, Orlando, New York City, San Diego and Anaheim.
AAA's projections are based on economic forecasting and research by IHS Markit. The London-based business information provider has teamed with AAA since 2009 to jointly analyze travel trends during major holidays, and AAA has been reporting on holiday travel trends for more than two decades.