A record 107.3 million Americans — including nearly 4.5 million Ohioans — will be traveling during the Christmas and New Year’s holiday period between Saturday, Dec. 23 and Monday, Jan. 1.
That’s according to AAA, which stated that the number of people traveling 50 miles or more over the next week and a half reflects a 3.1 percent increase nationally and a 3.6 percent jump for Ohio compared to 2016. AAA reports this is the ninth consecutive year that year-end holiday travel has increased over the previous year.
“Across the board this year, travel has increased year-over-year for every major holiday weekend — Memorial Day, Independence Day, Thanksgiving — and we project the same for the year-end holiday period,” said Bill Sutherland, AAA senior vice president, Travel and Publishing.
In a press release, AAA officials stated, “Steady economic growth continues to drive this year’s increase in travel, as stronger employment, rising incomes, low prices for goods and services, and increasing household assets are leading to more consumer spending.”
The higher volume of people traveling this year is projected despite the fact that this year’s 10-day year-end holiday travel period is one day shorter than last year, according to AAA.
Cost of travel
Higher gas prices than last year won’t keep drivers from traveling over the holidays. Nearly 91 percent of travelers (92 percent of Ohio travelers) will drive to their holiday destination. AAA expects to assist nearly 1 million (901,600) motorists across the country during the 10-day holiday period with dead batteries, flat tires, lockouts and more.
Lower air fares are fueling an increase in holiday air travel, with nearly 6.4 million Americans, including nearly 239,000 Ohioans flying this holiday — a 4.1 percent increase (4.4 percent in Ohio) over last year. Travelers should expect long security lines and plan to arrive at the airport at least two hours before their scheduled flight.
Holiday airfares are nearly 20 percent cheaper than last year, according to AAA. At $165, the average year-end holiday airfare for a round-trip ticket on the top 40 domestic routes is at a five-year low, according to AAA’s Leisure Travel Index. Competition, capacity, over-expansion and lower oil prices are contributing to the decline.
Car rental rates are up 11 percent from last year, to an average of $74 per day. This sets a new five-year record high rate for the year-end holiday period.
Be safe on the road
According to statistics from the Ohio State Highway Patrol website, 13 people died in 10 traffic crashes during the 2016 Christmas holiday travel period, from Dec. 23-26, 2016. Five of the deceased were not wearing seat belts when the crashes they were involved in occurred, according to troopers.
Four people were killed in traffic crashes during the New Year’s holiday period from Dec. 30, 2016 to Jan. 2, 2017. Troopers reported that one of the deceased was not wearing a seat belt at the time of the crash in which they were involved.