For the first time since 2002, AAA is projecting a slight decline in the number of Americans traveling during the Christmas holiday period.
Nearly 63.9 million Americans will travel 50 miles or more from home during the Christmas holiday travel period, a decrease of 1.4 million travelers (2.1 percent) from last year’s total of 65.3 million. AAA has projected year-to-year decreases in the number of travelers for all five major travel holidays this year (Memorial Day, Fourth of July, Labor Day, Thanksgiving and Christmas).
AAA also projects a total of 767,000 Oklahomans will travel over the holidays – nearly 92 percent of them by motor vehicle – a dip of a little more than two percent from last year. Air travel among Oklahomans will be down more than ten percent.
“Without question, the nation’s troubled economy has eroded any extra money many Americans would have spent on travel and, for some, has altered their travel plans throughout the year,” said AAA Oklahoma spokesman Chuck Mai.
“However, those who are traveling this holiday season will be able to take advantage of declining hotel rates and fuel prices that are nearly half of what they were a year ago.”
More than 52.4 million Americans (82 percent of all travelers) intend to travel by automobile, a 1.2 percent decrease from the 53 million people who drove last year.
Motorists across the country, on average, can expect to see gasoline prices about $1.32 per gallon below last year and 42 cents less than a month ago. Today’s nationwide average stands at $1.667 per gallon for self-serve regular gasoline.
AAA reports a gallon of self-serve regular in Oklahoma is averaging $1.585 today, $1.22 less than one year ago and 27 cents below what it averaged one month ago.
Nationwide, approximately 8.1 million (13 percent of holiday travelers) expect to travel by airplane over the upcoming holiday period, an 8.5 percent decline from the 8.9 million travelers who flew last year.
More than 3.33 million Americans plan to travel by train, bus or other mode of transportation, an increase of 0.7 percent from a year ago.
According to AAA’s Leisure Travel Index (LTI), which is based on available rates this holiday, Americans can expect to pay lower hotel rates and higher car rental rates throughout the holiday season. However, travelers should expect different trends in airfares depending on the week of travel.
For Americans traveling during the week of Christmas, rates at AAA Three Diamond-rated hotels are down an average of three percent compared to last year. On average, travelers renting a vehicle during the week of Christmas will pay two percent more than a year ago. Air passengers, however, can expect some relief in airfares this Christmas with prices nine percent less than last year.
Those planning to travel the week of New Year’s will see significant declines in hotel rates at AAA Three Diamond hotels – 16 percent below year ago levels. Car rental rates are eight percent higher than last year for the same period. And Americans who are flying that week will pay an average of three percent more for airfares compared to New Year’s, 2007.
AAA advises air passengers to check with their airline or travel counselor about additional fees before booking a trip. Most airlines continue to charge fees for checked baggage and other previously complimentary services like beverages and snacks.
Car rental rates vary greatly from location to location; some cities in AAA’s LTI show significant increases when compared to last year, while others show significant decreases. AAA’s index for car rentals is based on the average lowest intermediate size car daily rate at 20 U.S. airport locations. The rates do not include sales tax, insurance and other miscellaneous charges.
For help planning and budgeting for your auto trip, make use of AAA’s free online tools at . Click on News & Safety, Fuel News & Tools, to access AAA’s Fuel Cost Calculator, the daily AAA Fuel Gauge Report of average state-by-state and city-by-city gasoline prices, AAA’s Fuel Price Finder, as well as advice on ways to save at the pump.
Research for Christmas holiday travel projections are derived from the Travel Industry Association’s (TIA) Holiday Travel Forecast Model. The model was developed based on consumer travel intentions and TIA’s quarterly travel forecast data. The travel intentions data are collected through an online survey of nearly 2,300 adults nationwide, supplemented by an additional 5,000 Americans surveyed from the top 10 states of origin in the United States.
Historical travel volume and other economic data such as GDP, disposable income, employment and travel costs (including fuel prices) are also incorporated into the model. Analysis of the data and the forecasts are produced by the Travel Industry Association, which conducts special research for AAA.
As North America’s largest motoring and leisure travel organization, AAA provides more than 51 million members (327,000 in Oklahoma) with travel, insurance, financial and automotive-related services. Since its founding in 1902, the not-for-profit, fully tax-paying AAA has been a leader and advocate for the safety and security of all travelers. AAA Oklahoma can be visited on the Internet at http://www.AAA.com.