Travel Trends

AAA Forecasts a Decrease in Christmas Holiday Travel

- Year-to-year decline follows trend seen throughout 2008

AAA projects 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. This is the first decline in Christmas holiday travelers since 2002. AAA projected year-to-year decreases in the number of travelers for all five of the major travel holidays this year (Memorial Day, Fourth of July, Labor Day, Thanksgiving and Christmas).

'The economic downturn of 2008 eroded the discretionary income many Americans would have spent on travel and, for some, altered their travel plans throughout the year,' said Gail Weinholzer, director of public affairs, AAA Minnesota/Iowa. 'However, those traveling this holiday season can take advantage of declining hotel rates and fuel prices.'

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More than 52.4 million Americans (82 percent) intend to travel by automobile, a 1.2 percent decrease from the 53 million people who drove last year. Approximately 8.1 million (13 percent) expect to travel by airplane, 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.

Americans can expect lower hotel rates and higher car rental rates throughout the holiday season. However, travelers should expect different trends in airfares depending upon the week of travel. For Americans traveling during the week of Christmas, rates for AAA Three Diamond hotels are down an average of three percent compared to last year. Travelers renting a vehicle during the week of Christmas will pay two percent more than a year ago for the same period. Air passengers, however, can expect some relief in airfares this Christmas with prices nine percent less than last year.

Those traveling the week of New Year's will welcome a significant decline in hotel costs with rates for AAA Three Diamond hotels 16 percent less than a year ago. Car rental rates are eight percent higher than last year for the same period. Americans traveling by air will pay an average of three percent more for airfares than a year ago.

The Southeast is expected to produce the largest number of automobile travelers this Christmas holiday period with 14.1 million, followed by the West with 12.9 million. The greatest number of air travelers also will originate in the Southeast with 2.5 million, followed by the West with 2.3 million.

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