U.S. Holiday Travel to Reach Five-Year High, AAA Projects

U.S. travel during the Christmas and New Year’s holiday weekends will increase 1.4 percent from 2010 to the highest level in five years, AAA said today.

About 91.9 million people will journey 50 miles or more from home during the holiday period, which runs from Dec. 23 to Jan. 2, according to the forecast from the nation’s biggest motoring organization. That’s up from 90.7 million a year earlier and the third consecutive increase.

“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 last 10 years,” Bill Sutherland, AAA’s vice president of travel services, said in a statement.

Automobile drivers and passengers will account for 83.6 million of the year-end holiday travelers, up 2.1 percent from last year. The number of air travelers will fall 9.7 percent to 5.4 million.

The lowest average published airfares will rise 21 percent to $210 for round-trip tickets, AAA said, while the daily rental rate for a mid-sized car will decline 21 percent to $40.

Travel Spending

Americans will spend approximately $718 a household, up from $694 last year, to travel during the holiday, AAA said. The average distance will be 726 miles, down from an estimated 1,052 a year earlier.

The Dec. 25 Christmas holiday and New Year’s Day fall on Sundays this year.

AAA’s projections are based on research by IHS Global Insight of Lexington, Massachusetts.

Regular gasoline at the pump, averaged nationwide, has increased 6.2 percent this year to $3.264 a gallon yesterday, according to AAA data.

Gasoline demand at the pump last week was 8.76 million barrels a day last week, down 4.6 percent from a year earlier, according to MasterCard Inc.’s SpendingPulse report yesterday. Year-to-date demand is down 1.6 percent from a year earlier.

To contact the reporter on this story: Barbara Powell in Dallas at bpowell4@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Dan Stets at dstets@bloomberg.net

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