107 Million Americans, 1.3 Million Oregonians to travel; 91 percent will go by car
PORTLAND, Ore. – AAA projects more than 107.4 million Americans (33 percent of the population) will travel for the Christmas and New Year holidays. This is the most on record and a 3.1 percent increase compared to last year. In Oregon, roughly 1.35 million will travel. This marks the ninth consecutive year of growth in travel for the year-end holidays. The year-end holiday travel period is defined as Saturday, December 23 through Monday, January 1, 2018.
“We’ve seen travel volumes increase this year for every major travel holiday—Memorial Day, Independence Day and Thanksgiving—and now we’re seeing the same growth for Christmas and New Year’s. The increase in holiday travel this year is being driven by the strong economy and growing consumer confidence,” says Marie Dodds, public affairs director for AAA Oregon/Idaho.
Most travelers will drive this holiday season
The vast majority of travelers—91 percent or 97.4 million people—will take a holiday road trip, an increase of 3 percent over last year. In Oregon, about 1.2 million will drive.
Gas prices are about 15 to 40 cents a gallon more than a year ago and the most expensive pump prices for the year-end holidays since 2014. However, pump prices are still relatively low compared to 2010 through 2013 when gas prices averaged more than $3 a gallon.
Heaviest traffic expected Wednesday and Thursday evenings
Drivers will experience the greatest amount of congestion before the holiday week – on Wednesday, Dec. 20 and Thursday, Dec. 21 – in the late afternoon as commuters leave work early and mix with holiday travelers.
Drivers on some interstates and highways could see travel times peak at three times a normal trip. The most congested times are expected to be Wednesday afternoon/evening from 3:30 to 6 p.m. and Thursday from 3:30 to 7 p.m.
“You can avoid the biggest traffic bottlenecks if you can travel outside of these times. Consider leaving in the early morning hours or right after the morning commute,” says Dodds. “Whenever you travel, expect lots of company due to the record number of travelers this year. Pack your patience and give yourself extra time to get to your destination.”
Bump in air travel, airfares cost less
Air travel is expected to increase by 4.1 percent, with 6.4 million Americans and 81,000 Oregonians flying to their holiday destinations. This is the fourth year of growth in the number of air travelers.
At $165, the average end of year holiday airfare for a round-trip flight for the top 40 domestic routes is at a five-year low, according to AAA’s Leisure Travel Index. On average, 2017 airfares are 5 percent less expensive compared to 2016. Overall, competition, capacity over-expansion and lower oil prices are contributing to the decline.
Travel by other modes including Trains, Buses, Rails and Cruise Ships will increase by 2.2 percent to 3.6 million.
Air travel tips:
Airports will be busy and security lines may be longer than usual around the holidays. Travelers should plan to arrive at the airport at least two hours prior to the scheduled departure of their flight. During peak travel times, contact your airline for guidance, as it may be necessary to arrive even earlier.
A power outage Sunday at Atlanta’s Hartsfield Jackson International Airport caused the cancellation of more than a thousand flights. The power is now back on, but the impact on air travel may linger for days ahead of the holiday season. The Atlanta airport is the busiest airport in the world with roughly 2,500 flights serving more than 275,000 travelers a day.
The 11-hour outage at the Atlanta airport is expected to affect flights for the next few days across the country, as more than 1,000 flights are re-scheduled. Air travelers who are concerned about their flights should contact their airlines directly. Many impacted airlines are waiving cancellation or change fees.
This time of year travelers need to also be aware of potential weather delays. Make sure to check
flight status regularly before traveling to the airport. To expedite travel, AAA recommends enrolling in programs such as TSA PreCheck and Global Entry.
Visit TSA.gov for the latest info on getting through security and items you can carry on your flights. Air travelers are often surprised when holiday gifts such as jams, honey and other food items are confiscated—they are considered liquids. It’s also best not to wrap gifts as inspectors may need to unwrap them at the security check point.
Hotel rates cheaper, rental cars cost more
According to AAA’s Leisure Travel Index, Travelers can also find savings at AAA Two and Three Diamond Rated hotels. On average, a Three Diamond hotel nightly rate is $156, a two percent year-over-year decrease. The Two Diamond nightly average rate is $121, a five percent decrease from last year.
Similar to Thanksgiving, car rental rates are more expensive on the year. At $74, the daily car rental rate increased 11 percent. This sets a new five-year record high rate for year-end holiday travel. The increase is on par with the rate increases seen at Thanksgiving.
This year’s most popular destinations for the year-end holidays based on AAA bookings at AAA Oregon/Idaho include many popular West Coast and Hawaiian cities, as well as perennial family-friendly favorites such as Disneyland and NYC:
- Anaheim, California
- Honolulu, Hawaii
- Las Vegas, Nevada
- Seattle, Washington
- Phoenix, Arizona
- Kahului, Maui
- San Francisco, California
- San Diego, California
- New York City, New York
- Orlando, Florida
AAA to the rescue!
AAA expects to rescue more than 901,600 drivers nationally and 12,000 in Oregon over the holiday travel period, with the primary reasons being dead batteries, flat tires, lockouts and vehicle tows.
Drivers should have their vehicles inspected by a trusted repair shop before heading out on a holiday road trip, such as one of the nearly 7,000 AAA Approved Auto Repair facilities across North America. Members can download the free AAA Mobile app, visit AAA.com or call 1-800-AAA-HELP to request roadside assistance.
For added convenience, Wazers can now request AAA roadside assistance directly from the Waze app by tapping the Report menu.
Be prepared for winter driving conditions:
AAA recommends checking windshield wipers and inspecting tires to ensure safe drivability before setting out. Pack an emergency kit containing a snow shovel, flashlight, ice scraper, jumper cables, warning devices and extra warm clothing for everyone riding in the vehicle. When driving, slow down and do not tailgate. Increase following distances to a minimum of five to six seconds to allow additional braking room.
Before hitting the road, drivers should also get plenty of sleep to avoid driving drowsy. Research from the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety found that drivers who miss just one to two hours of the recommended seven hours of sleep nearly double their risk for a crash. For long trips, drivers should
travel at times when normally awake, schedule a break every two hours or every 100 miles, avoid heavy foods, travel with an alert passenger and take turns driving, and avoid medications that cause drowsiness or other impairment.
Download the AAA Mobile app before a holiday getaway
Before setting out on a holiday trip, travelers should download the free AAA Mobile app for iPhone, iPad and Android. The app can help map a route, find lowest gas prices, access exclusive member discounts, make travel arrangements, request AAA roadside assistance, find AAA Approved Auto Repair facilities and more. Learn more at AAA.com/mobile.
With the AAA Mobile app, travelers can also find more than 58,000 AAA Approved and Diamond Rated hotels and restaurants. AAA’s is the only rating system that uses full-time, professionally trained evaluators to inspect each property on an annual basis. Every AAA Approved establishment offers the assurance of acceptable cleanliness, comfort and hospitality, and ratings of One to Five Diamonds help travelers find the right match for amenities and services.
About the travel forecast
AAA’s projections are based on economic forecasting and research by IHS Markit. The London-based business information provider teamed with AAA in 2009 to jointly analyze travel trends during major holidays. AAA has been reporting on holiday travel trends for more than two decades. The complete AAA/IHS 2017 year-end holiday travel forecast can be found here.