AAA: 2019 to be Busiest Holiday Travel Season Ever

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Record-breaking 115.6 Million Americans including 1.4 million Oregonians to travel for the holidays

2019 holiday travel projections

PORTLAND, Ore. – AAA says a record-breaking number of Americans will travel for the Chanukah, Christmas and New Year holidays. More than 115.6 million Americans including 1.4 million Oregonians will travel 50 miles or more from home between Sunday, Dec. 21 through Wednesday, Jan. 1. This is a 3.9 percent increase over last year, or 4.3 million more packing up their sleighs for a holiday trip.

2019 holiday travel projections

“A strong economy with very low unemployment and strength in consumer spending is helping to create lots of lots of holiday cheer this year,” Marie Dodds, public affairs director for AAA Oregon/Idaho. “This is the eighth year in a row to set a new record for holiday travel volume, and the 11th consecutive year of growth in travel for the year-end holidays.”

More Americans will drive this holiday season than ever before

The vast majority of travelers—91 percent or 104.8 million people—will take a holiday road trip, an increase of 3.9 percent over last year. In Oregon, about 1.3 million will drive.

Gas prices have been steadily dropping in the last month and are expected to fall even more leading up to the holidays. The national average will likely remain more expensive than last year’s holiday prices, while the Oregon average should be within a few cents of last year’s Christmas average.

Christmas Gas Prices through 2018

Find current gas prices at https://gasprices.aaa.com/.

As an added 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).

Heaviest traffic expected after Christmas

Even though AAA projects a record number of Americans traveling by car, traffic delays are not expected to be extreme. The busiest days on the highways are expected to be Dec. 26 and 27 between about 4 and 6 p.m. when some trips could take twice as long as a normal trip.

2019 holiday travel projections

“With the kids out of school and many Americans taking days off over the holidays, travel will be more spread out so we shouldn’t see a ton of traffic gridlock,” says Dodds.

Prepare for crowded airports Dec. 21-23; steepest prices Dec. 26

Air travel is expected to increase by 4.9 percent compared to last year, with nearly 7 million Americans including about 90,000 Oregonians flying to their holiday destinations. This is the eighth consecutive year of growth in the number of air travelers and the most since 2003.

2019 holiday travel projections

AAA’s flight booking data reveals that most travelers depart two to four days prior to the Christmas holiday, Dec. 21-23, with the 22nd 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.

Travel by other modes including Trains, Buses, Rails and Cruise Ships will increase by 3 percent to 3.81 million.

 

Air travel tips

Airports are 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 domestic flights and three hours before international flights. During peak travel times, contact your airline for guidance, as it may be necessary to arrive even earlier.

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. Some airlines will waive cancellation or change fees when bad weather hits.

AAA recommends enrolling in pre-screening programs such as TSA PreCheck and Global Entry which can make the screening process easier. 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. Instead, pack gift bags and tissue paper so you can easily wrap gifts when you arrive at your destination.

 

Hotel rates fluctuate slightly, rental cars climb to 10-year high

According to AAA’s Leisure Travel Index, travelers will also pay a bit more at AAA Two Diamond hotels, where prices are 2 percent less than last year, or $119 per night. The average rate for AAA Three Diamond hotels are up 1 percent to an average nightly cost of $153.

 

Holiday road trippers should budget more for a rental car this year, as daily rates are up 11 percent over last year. At $84, the daily average car rental rate this holiday season is the most expensive in 10 years.

 

Top destinations:

 This year’s most popular destinations for the year-end holidays based on AAA bookings at AAA Oregon/Idaho include many popular western and Hawaiian cities, as well as perennial family-friendly favorites such as Disneyland and NYC:

  1. Anaheim, California
  2. Maui
  3. Honolulu, Hawaii
  4. San Diego, CA
  5. Las Vegas, Nevada
  6. Phoenix/Scottsdale, AZ
  7. Orlando, Florida
  8. New York, New York
  9. Cabo San Lucas, Mexico
  10. Lauderdale, Florida

Other top regional spots include central Oregon, the Oregon coast, Seattle, San Francisco/Bay area and British Columbia, Canada.

 

#AAAToTheRescue this holiday season: dead batteries, flat tires and lockouts.

AAA expects to respond to more than 853,000 drivers nationally and about 12,500 in Oregon over the holiday travel period. The top three issues are dead batteries, flat tires and lockouts.

2019 holiday travel projections

Before heading out on a road trip, AAA recommends you check the condition of your battery and tires and pack an emergency kit. AAA members can schedule a time for a AAA battery technician to come to your vehicle and test your battery, starter and alternator. We’ll even deliver a new battery, install it and take away your old one.

Have your vehicle inspected by a trusted repair shop, such as one of the nearly 7,000 AAA Approved Auto Repair facilities across North America. Oil changes, fluid level checks, battery tests and tire inspections go a long way toward reducing the chances of a breakdown.

Download the AAA Mobile app, visit AAA.com or call 1-800-AAA-HELP to request roadside assistance.

 

Be prepared for winter driving conditions:

Find tips at AAA.com/winterprep. In addition to checking your vehicle battery, 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.

winter prep

Equip your car with the right traction tires, or carry chains and know how to put them on. Make sure you, your passengers and your car are ready for winter driving conditions.

 

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 and closest EV charging stations, 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.

 

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 2019 year-end holiday travel forecast can be found here.

 

AAA news releases, high resolution images, broadcast-quality video, fact sheets and podcasts are available on the AAA NewsRoom at NewsRoom.AAA.com.

Find local news releases at https://www.oregon.aaa.com/category/news-releases/

For more information go to www.AAA.com. Get the latest fuel prices at AAA’s Daily Fuel Gauge at www.fuelgaugereport.com/. AAA Oregon/Idaho provides more than 820,000 members with travel, insurance, financial and automotive-related services, and is an affiliate of AAA National, serving more than 60 million motorists in North America.