More travelers this year for the holidays, according to AAA

By AAA Kansas
December 17, 2014

AAA projects nearly 8.1 million people from Kansas and the seven other West North Central region states (Missouri, Nebraska, Iowa, Minnesota and the Dakotas), will journey at least 50 miles from home for the year-end holiday period, an increase of 2.9 percent and the most to travel from the nearly 7.9 million people who traveled last year during the year’s largest and longest travel holiday.  

The region will also have the highest share of population traveling of any region in the country, 38.4 percent.  The U.S. average share of population traveling is 28.4 percent.  The 13 day travel period is defined as Tuesday, December 23 through Sunday, January 4.  This year’s longer holiday takes in two weekends creating a ‘calendar effect’ that also contributes to higher travel volumes.  The increase, though, marks the highest travel volume ever for the region.

The Impact of Gas Prices in Kansas

“Increasing consumer confidence should drive travel volume higher this year, and the lowest gas prices in Kansas since 2009 are giving people more to spend,” said AAA Executive Vice President Jim Hanni.  Nationally, drivers are saving more than $400 million each day compared to the high prices paid earlier this year.  The Kansas peak price for gasoline was paid on June 26, at $3.56 per gallon.  Prices have dropped nearly $1.25 since then, about 35 per cent.  The last time gas prices in Kansas, on average, were this low, was October 12, 2009, over 5 years ago.  

“Besides visiting families, popular holiday destinations among Kansas residents include Branson holiday lights and shows; Florida, from Orlando to Key West; following WSU basketball or KSU football to Hawaii or San Antonio, respectively; Colorado skiing; as well as New York City or Las Vegas,” noted Hanni, reporting feedback from AAA Kansas service offices.

Highlights from AAA’s Year-End Holiday Travel Forecast:

Over 7.5 million in this region plan to travel by automobile, an increase of 3 percent from a year ago. While 90.8 percent of U.S. year-end holiday travel will be made by automobile, 93 percent of this regions’ travel will be by auto.

Regional holiday air travel is expected to climb 0.3 percent to 314,000 (v. a one percent U.S. air travel increase) —accounting for 3.9 percent of regional holiday travelers.  That compares to 5.8 percent of U.S. travel by air.

Average discounted round-trip airfares are 7 percent lower than one year ago, influenced by the availability of rates from budget carriers in several top markets.

Diamond lodging up 4 percent.

The holiday travel period spans 13 days—the longest since 2008.

AAA’s projections are based on economic forecasting and research by IHS Global Insight. The complete forecast can be found here. The holiday travel period is defined as Tuesday, December 23 through Sunday, January 4.

AAA and Winter Weather Preparations

Last winter, AAA Allied Group responded to 22,310 requests of all kinds of road service, 24/7 and on holidays, all across its Kansas territory, a 5.2 percent increase over the previous year.  Besides towing, which made up 41 percent of all types of calls for service, problems with batteries, frozen locks or keys locked in cars, and tire service were the top causes of road service breakdowns.  

Notably, calls for towing, batteries and tires, increased nine, sixteen and ten percent, respectively.  With icy and snowy conditions threatening most Kansas motorists tonight and tomorrow for the first time this year, and prior to most of the holiday travel, AAA’s :How to Go In Ice and Snow” brochure and other tips/resources are made available here for your use or posting/linking as reminders to keep motorists safe.  “Reviewing the cautionary practices necessary for safe operation of vehicles, in preparation for winter driving, can prevent unnecessary trouble while driving and keep Kansans safer this winter,” Hanni said.