Posted: Dec 19, 2012 7:51 AM by MTN news
Updated: Dec 19, 2012 7:53 AM
HELENA - AAA projects 93.3 million Americans will travel 50 miles or more from home during this year's holiday season.
That's a 1.6 percent increae over the 91.8 million people who traveled last year.
The year-end holiday travel period is defined as Saturday, December 22 to Tuesday, January 1, 2013.
Travel from the Mountain region, consisting of the states of Montana, Wyoming, Idaho, Utah, Arizona, Nevada, Colorado and New Mexico, is forecast to grow 1.4 percent compared to last year.
Travel by automobile is projected to grow 1.1 percent, while airplane travel is set to increase 4 percent.
In the Mountain region 7.12 million person-trips are expected, representing 31.2 percent of the region's population, which is above the expected national frequency of 29.5 percent.
"The year-end holiday season is special because Americans are unlikely to let economic conditions or high gas prices affect their plans to go home for the holidays or ring in the New Year somewhere special," says AAA spokeswoman Kaelyn Kelly.
"However, as we wrap up 2012 one unknown for travel is the looming ‘fiscal cliff.'"
Uncertainty related to unresolved near-term tax and benefit changes complicates many travelers' ability to develop an accurate household budget as they plan for future spending and saving decisions.
Despite the economic insecurity, AAA's survey indicates median spending is expected to rise nearly 6 percent over last year to $759.
"The majority of intended travelers are indicating they'll be taking part in activities like dining and spending time with family and friends," says Kelly.
Holiday air travel is expected to increase 4.5 percent over last year to 5.6 million travelers in 2012, which also factors into increased median spending.
Even with the upsurge in air travel, road trips remain the most popular way to travel with approximately 90 percent of travelers (84.4 million), or 26.5% of the U.S. population journeying by automobile this holiday season.
AAA estimates the national average price of gasoline will slowly drop through the end of the year and average between $3.20-3.40 a gallon by New Year's Day.
Gas prices dropped about 50 cents a gallon on average from September through early December, but remain at record highs for this time of year.
AAA does not expect gas prices to have a significant impact on year-end travel plans.