Holiday crush: AAA forecasts a record holiday travel season

The crowds will shift from malls to roads and airports, as AAA expects a record number of Americans to travel this holiday season.

More than 103 million people are expected to travel from Dec. 23 through Jan. 2, up 1.5 percent, or 1.5 million people, from last year. It’s the eighth straight annual increase in holiday travel, according to AAA.

“Rising incomes and continued low gas prices should make for a joyous holiday travel season,” AAA CEO Marshall Doney said in a statement. Overall, improvements in the economy are driving travel.

Consumer spending is expected to rise 4.1 percent this year vs. 2015, according to AAA’s holiday travel forecast report. The nation’s unemployment rate was 4.6 percent in November. Personal income will rise 3.3 percent as an improved job market drives up wages. The stock market is at a record high.

How people travel aaa-pie

Most holiday travelers (an estimated 93.6 million people) are hitting the road again, with road trips expected to rise 1.5 percent from last year.

That’s largely due to low gas prices, even though today’s average national price of $2.24 a gallon is higher than the of $2 a year ago. AAA estimates that U.S. drivers have saved over $27 billion at the gas pumps so far this year compared with last year.

In addition, average car rental rates are slightly lower than last year at $66 a day, according to the forecast.

Air travel will increase by 2.5 percent, with more than 6 million Americans flying. Other types of travel, such as by trains, buses and boat, will decline slightly.

AAA projects holiday airfares will average $204 for a round-trip flight on the top 40 U.S. routes. Lodging rates are to increase 7 percent, with travelers spending an average of $144 a night.

Where people go

While many people visit relatives for the holidays, others take time off for a winter vacation. Warm-weather destinations top the list, with the exception of New York, based on AAA.com bookings. Here are the top five destinations:

  1. Las Vegas
  2. Orlando, Fla.
  3. New York City
  4. San Diego
  5. Anaheim, Calif.

AAA’s travel projections are based on economic forecasting and research by IHS Markit.

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Office holiday parties may be a little merrier this year

If you’re company is throwing a holiday party this year, chances are it will be a memorable one.

More companies plan to spend more money on holiday parties this year, according to an annual survey by consulting firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas Inc.

Roughly one in five companies hosting a holiday party are budgeting more for the event, the survey found. That’s an increase over the last two years.

Data shows that corporate profits are back above $1.6 trillion after dipping in the last of half 2015, according to Challenger CEO John A. Challenger. Its survey “suggests that employers are ready to spend some of those profits on their workers,” he said.

Eighty percent of companies plan to host a holiday party this year. That’s down slightly from 82 percent in 2015 and 89 percent in 2014.

Here are some holiday party trends from Challenger’s survey of about 100 human resources executives in October:

  • More companies are letting their employees bring guests: 43 percent will invite spouses or other family members, up from 31 percent in 2015.

Continue reading Office holiday parties may be a little merrier this year