The year-end holiday blitz is about to commence. 94.5 million travelers, nationally, will venture at least 50 miles from home over the year-end holiday period, nearly three out of every ten Americans. However, in the West North Central Region, of which Kansas is a part, nearly four out of every ten are traveling. That’s almost 8 million Kansas, Missouri, Nebraska, Iowa, the Dakotas and Minnesota travelers.
AAA’s national year-end holiday travel forecast represents a slight increase, 0.6 percent, compared to 2012. However for this region, the West North Central, the increase is 1.1 percent, according to travel source AAA. Year-end travel is expected to increase for the fifth consecutive year.
Covering both the Christmas and New Year holidays, the year-end holiday travel period is by far the longest, least volatile holiday period of the year. It includes trips between Saturday, Dec. 21 and Wednesday, Jan. 1, 2014.
“The year-end travel period is a day longer this year, which is the only reason for the increase in travel,” said James Hanni, Executive Vice President, Kansas Region & Public Affairs, for AAA Allied Group. “The modest upswing in travel we’re expecting to see can be attributed to this. It is the calendar effect.”
West North Central Regional highlights from AAA’s 2013/14 Year-End Holiday Travel Forecast include:
‘Sleigh’ rides rule. Over 93 percent (7.38 million) will travel by car, compared to just under 91 percent, nationally. This also represents an increase of 1.3 percent, in this region, from last year. The sleigh will go farther in this region, with Kansas average gas prices 10-15 cents a gallon lower than this time period last year. The Kansas average for a gallon of unleaded fuel is about $2.97, down 12 cents from a year ago. Kansas has the 4th lowest average gas prices, with only Missouri, Oklahoma and Minnesota lower.
Air travel takes flight. AAA expects more than 310,000 to fly the friendly skies in this region to their holiday destinations. This is a decrease of 1.1 percent, for the region, from 2012. Yet, holiday air travel seems to have stabilized.
Budgets jingle. Median spending among the region’s travelers is expected to be $689, compared to U.S. average of $765. Because more West North Central travelers travel by car, travel budgets are somewhat lower. Regional median trip spending is up 5 percent over last year, a result of lower regional unemployment. Visiting with family/friends, dining, shopping and watching sporting events are, by far, the most popular expected activities for the region, more so than the national average.
Longer, jolly trips planned. The average travel distance for the region is 699 miles, a slight but insignificant decrease, and lower due to heavy auto travel compared to the U.S. average of 805.
“It’s great to see such a large share – almost 38 percent – of the population planning to take a trip over the final two holidays of the year,” Hanni said.
“For travelers and the travel industry alike, it truly is the most wonderful time of the year.”
As a travel resource, AAA has made available a variety of mobile travel tools. This includes AAA Mobile, a free app for Smartphone users. The app uses GPS navigation to help travelers map a route, locate nearby discounts, summon roadside assistance, find current gas prices and more. Travelers can learn more about this resource at www.aaa.com/mobile.
Research for year-end travel projections are derived from IHS Global Insight. AAA has been reporting on holiday travel trends for more than two decades.