12-24-13 Heading home for the holidays

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Nearly 30 percent of Americans to travel at least 50 miles from home this year
If you are heading out to spend the Christmas holidays with family and friends, you may find lots of company on the road and in the air.

AAA projects 94.5 million Americans will journey 50 miles or more from home during the upcoming holidays, an increase of half a million travelers compared to one year ago. This year’s expected travel volume is the highest ever recorded for the season. AAA defines the year-end holiday travel season as Saturday, December 21, to Wednesday, January 1.

“Typically, Americans travel during the holidays regardless of economic conditions or gas prices,” said Jim Lehman, President, AAA East Central. “For the first time in three years, the holiday period covers 12 days instead of 11, providing travelers with an extra day to visit family and friends or squeeze in a year-end vacation.”

Approximately 85.8 million people (91 percent of holiday travelers) plan to take to the nation’s roadways this year-end holiday travel season, a 0.9 percent increase compared to 2012-2013 when the number of auto travelers totaled 85.1 million.

Holiday air travel is expected to decrease 1.4 percent to 5.5 million travelers.

Approximately 3.1 million travelers will choose other modes of transportation, including rail, bus and cruise ship.

South Atlantic Region* Highlights from Year-End Holiday Travel Forecast include:

Year-end holiday travelers to total 17.56 million, up 0.3 percent from last year
15.90 million will travel by automobile, up 0.5 percent from last year
960,000 will fly to their destination, down 0.7 percent from last year
*South Atlantic region includes West Virginia, Washington, D.C., Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Maryland, North Carolina, South Carolina and Virginia.

Hotel rates relatively flat, car rental rates increase 13 percent

According to AAA’s Leisure Travel Index, hotel rates for AAA Three Diamond lodgings are expected to average $138 per night compared to $142 last year. Travelers planning to stay at AAA Two Diamond hotels can expect to pay an average cost of $102 per night, compared to $101 in 2012.  Weekend daily car rental rates will average $63, compared to $55 last year.

According to the survey of intended travelers, the average distance traveled is expected to be 805 miles, which is an increase of 45 miles from last year when travelers logged 760 miles.

Median spending increases slightly; visiting, dining and shopping top activities

Median spending is expected to be $765, up from $759 last year. Visiting with friends and family (74 percent) and dining (70 percent) are the most popular activities planned by travelers. It is not surprising that during holiday season shopping is the third most popular activity with 51 percent expecting to shop.

AAA’s digital tools for travel planning ‘on the go’ include eTourBook guides for tablets and smartphones, available free to members at AAA.com/ebooks. Choose from 101 top North American destinations including city titles, like the award-winning Las Vegas, regions, like Wine Country, and National Parks.

The free AAA Mobile app for iPhone, iPad and Android uses GPS navigation to help travelers map a route, find current gas prices and discounts, book a hotel, and access AAA roadside assistance. Members using the iPad version can access interactive Top Destinations travel guides for popular cities. Travelers can learn more at AAA.com/mobile.

On AAA.com, travelers can find thousands of AAA Approved and Diamond Rated hotels and restaurants using AAA’s TripTik Travel Planner or the searchable Travel Guides at AAA.com/Travel. Every AAA Approved establishment offers the assurance of acceptable cleanliness, comfort and hospitality, and ratings of One to Five Diamonds help travelers find the right match for amenities and services.

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