More Americans than ever on record – 115.6 million – will travel this holiday season, from Sunday, Dec. 21 through Wednesday, Jan. 1. That is the most in nearly 20 years since AAA began tracking in 2000, and represents an increase of 3.9% over last year. Oahu and Maui are among the top five destinations for holiday trips nationwide, according to AAA Travel.
More Americans than ever on record will drive this holiday season
- Automobiles: 104.8 million Americans, the most on record, will drive to their holiday destinations. That means 3.9 million more people are expected on the roads compared with last year, for an increase of 3.9%.
- Planes: With 4.9% growth, air travel will see the biggest increase in travel volume during the year-end holidays, with 6.97 million Americans expected to fly – the most since 2003.
- Trains, Buses and Cruise Ships: Travel by these other modes will reach 3.81 million, 3% more than last year.
Top holiday getaways
Theme parks in Orlando and Southern California, as well as two Hawaii destinations, top the list of most popular destinations in the U.S. for the year-end holidays, based on advance AAA Travel bookings:
- Orlando, FL
- Anaheim, CA
- Honolulu, HI
- Kahului, Maui, HI
- Las Vegas, NV
- Ft. Lauderdale, FL
- New York, NY
- Miami, FL
- Tampa, FL
- Phoenix, AZ
Gas prices stay steady
Hawaii gas prices have stayed steady statewide for the last several months, with the current average statewide price hovering at $3.66 a gallon for regular unleaded – slightly higher than the $3.58 average one year ago.
As a bonus for holiday road trippers, AAA members who register in the Fuel Rewards at Shell program through Dec. 31, 2019 can receive an additional 25 cents per gallon discount on their first fill up after registering as a new Fuel Rewards member, on top of the everyday 5-cent discount (30 cents total).
AAA Hawaii to rescue nearly 1,300 at the roadside
Nearly 1,300 motorists will call AAA Hawaii for assistance at the roadside this holiday season. Dead batteries, flat tires and lockouts will be the leading reasons AAA members will experience car trouble. AAA recommends motorists take their vehicles to a trusted repair facility to perform any needed maintenance before heading out on a road trip. And remember to slow down and move over for stopped emergency vehicles at the roadside. It’s the law in all 50 states.
Prepare for busy airports Dec. 21-23, steep flight prices Dec. 26
A recent analysis of AAA’s flight booking data revealed that most travelers depart two to four days prior to the Christmas holiday, Dec. 21-23, with Dec. 22 being the single busiest air travel day of the holiday week. These travelers, on average, pay ticket prices between $593 and $639. Christmas Eve is the best day to travel, with the lowest average price per ticket ($527) and the fewest crowds of the holiday week. Many travelers opt to fly after the Christmas holiday leading up to New Year’s, and they pay a premium to do so. Dec. 26 has the highest average ticket price of the week at $692.
Hotel prices fluctuate slightly; car rental rates reach 10-year high
Travelers will need to budget more for car rentals this holiday season. According to AAA’s Leisure Travel Index, the daily average rental rate this Christmas and New Year’s will reach $84, 11% more than last year and the highest price in 10 years. AAA Three Diamond hotel prices have increased 1% to $153, while AAA Two Diamond hotels will average $119, 2% less than last year.
AAA’s projections are based on economic forecasting and research by IHS Markit, a London-based business information provider. For the purposes of this forecast, the year-end holiday travel period is defined as the 12-day period from Saturday, Dec. 21 to Wednesday, Jan. 1.
In cooperation with AAA, IHS Markit developed a unique methodology to forecast actual domestic travel volumes, using macroeconomic drivers such as employment; output; household net worth; asset prices including stock indices; interest rates; housing market indicators and variables related to travel and tourism, including prices of gasoline, airline travel and hotel stays.