AAA Predicts Slightly More Holiday Driving, Slightly Less Holiday Self Loathing

Every holiday the AAA, which is a quasi-governmental agency more powerful than the FRC but slightly less powerful that the pentaverate, puts out the results of a nationwide survey that tells them how many people will be hitting the roads. According to their survey, this year slightly less people (about 0.3%) will by flying for Christmas and slightly more (about 0.7%) will be taking their cars for a trip of more than 50 miles from home. Though gas prices are up this year, so are airline tickets, and many people are reporting that it's important to them to see their family and find out if Cousin Wanda really did get that fat since Thanksgiving. Full press release below.

AAA Predicts Small Increase In Travel Volume During This Holiday Season

AAA estimates that 65.2 million Americans will travel 50 miles or more from home during the Christmas-New Year�s holiday period, only a 0.7 percent increase from last year�s 64.7 million travelers. However, for those planning to travel during the last holiday season of the year, expect gasoline prices and airfares well above last year�s levels.

�Whether driving or flying, Americans face steep increases in their travel budgets during this Christmas-New Year�s holiday,� said Robert L. Darbelnet, president and CEO of AAA. �Gasoline prices remain at unprecedented levels for this time of year with prices of $3 a gallon or more a common sight across much of the country. Airfares averaging 16 percent more than last Christmas means that bargains may be hard to find for those looking to fly to their destinations.�

Approximately 53 million travelers expect to go by motor vehicle, a 0.9 percent increase from the 52.5 million who drove in 2006. With more than 81 percent of all holiday travelers hitting the roads this holiday season, AAA wants to remind motorists to drive safely and remember to slow down or move over when they see emergency vehicles along the roadside such as law enforcement, fire trucks, ambulances or roadside assistance vehicles such as tow trucks. Most states have laws requiring motorists to change lanes away from emergency vehicles on the roadside or to slow down well below the posted speed limit while passing if they are unable to safely change lanes.

�Slowing down or moving over near accident scenes, or where roadside assistance vehicles are stopped along the shoulder, can help keep emergency responders and motorists safe during the holiday travel season,� said Darbelnet.

AAA expects 8.9 million Americans (13.7 percent of holiday travelers) to travel by airplane, a slight decrease of 0.3 percent from last Christmas holiday. A projected 3.3 million travelers will go by train, bus or other mode of transportation.

According to AAA�s Leisure Travel Index, Americans can expect higher prices for airfares and hotel rates this holiday season. After no change in price from 2005 to 2006, the average price for an airline ticket is up 16 percent for travel during the week of Christmas. Hotel rates for AAA Rated Three Diamond hotels climbed 4 percent when compared to last Christmas. Travelers will experience some relief when renting a car this Christmas as rental rates are 4 percent less than last year.

For those traveling during the week of New Year�s, expect a 9 percent increase in both airfares and hotel rates for AAA Rated Three Diamond hotels over last year�s prices. Car rental rates, however, are down 13 percent.

The majority of holiday travelers (43.2 percent) will travel with two to three people from their household. Nearly 37 percent plan to travel alone or with one other person from their household. About 20 percent of travelers will travel with four or more people from their household.

Not surprisingly, more than 70 percent of households with children under the age of 18 plan to take their children with them during their holiday trips. Just over 29 percent of households with children will travel without them. The region with the greatest percentage of family travelers is the Great Lakes at 81.2 percent; followed by the Midwest at 75.1 percent; the West at 73.1 percent; the Northeast at 66.9 percent; and the Southeast at 63.6 percent.

The Southeast is expected to produce the largest number of automobile travelers with 14 million, followed by the West with13.2 million; Midwest, 10.3 million; the Great Lakes, 8.4 million; and the Northeast, 7.2 million.

The greatest number of air travelers will also originate from the Southeast with 2.7 million, followed by the West with 2.5 million; the Northeast, 1.8 million; Midwest, 1 million; and the Great Lakes with 909,000. [Source: AAA]