Busiest Holiday Travel Season in a Decade

By Steve Gigliotti
Steve Gigliotti
Steve Gigliotti
December 22, 2011 Updated: December 22, 2011

According to the American Automobile Association (AAA), this holiday travel season will be the busiest in a decade, with 91.9 million Americans expected to travel 50 or more miles away from home. This is up 1.4 percent over last year and represents approximately 30 percent of the population.

“It’s a positive sign for the travel industry that so many Americans are planning to travel this holiday season, collectively contributing to the second highest year-end holiday travel volume in the past 10 years,” said Bill Sutherland, vice president of AAA Travel Services. 

“As our lives get busier, it is so important to create opportunities for the rest and rejuvenation that result from vacation travel and connecting with family and friends, especially during the holidays,” Sutherland added.

AAA defines the holiday travel season as Dec. 23 through Jan. 2.

Trips by automobile will account for the majority of travel, with travel by air on the decline this year. According to the IHS Global Institute, automobile travel will account for 91 percent of all holiday travel. Air travel will represent approximately 6 percent, and trains, buses, and other forms of transportation represent the remaining 3 percent.

According to the report, the decrease in air travel is down nearly 10 percent from last year, possibly due to higher fuel costs, higher ticket prices, and increased baggage fees. IHS reports that holiday airfare is projected to be 21 percent higher than last year, with the average ticket price at $210—the highest average in the past five years.

“This holiday season will see a traffic decrease consistent with the slowdown reported in recent months,” said Airlines for America (A4A) chief economist and Vice President John Heimlich. “Passengers still should expect to see full flights as many airlines have reduced capacity to match the decline in travel and increased cost of operations.

“Capacity reduction is one of the steps the industry is taking to preserve profitability,” Heimlich said.

With more people on the road this holiday season, AAA recommends to plan you trip in advance and get plenty of rest, saying that holiday travelers should, “Be sure to pack more patience.” Travel planing tools are available at AAA.com.

Steve Gigliotti
Steve Gigliotti