In the American Automobile Association’s West North Central Region, which includes Kansas, more than 8.2 million people will be travelling for the holidays, the AAA reported. This is a record setting number for the region and the ninth consecutive year of an increase.
The WNC region also has the largest percentage of its population travelling during this time period of any region in the United States. This comes despite one fewer travel day this holiday season. The year-end holiday travel period today through Monday, Jan. 2, 2017.
The increase in holiday travel this year is being driven by additional consumer spending, a result of improvements in the labor market and rising wages, AAA spokesman Jim Hanni said. Additionally, low gas prices and increased consumer optimism will prompt more Americans than ever to set out on road trips, take to the skies, or board trains, buses and cruise ships to celebrate the holidays.
Despite the recent uptick in Kansas gas prices, Kansas motorists have paid over 13 percent less for gas in 2016 than they did in 2015. The Kansas average for regular unleaded this year has been just under $1.96 versus over $2.25 in 2015.
“’Tis the season for holiday travel, and this year more Americans will travel to celebrate the holidays and ring in the New Year than ever before,” Hanni said. “Rising incomes and lower gas prices should make for a joyous holiday travel season.”
Most travelers will drive this holiday season
In the WNC region, almost 7.6 million will be travelling by car. Air travel is expected to increase by 1 percent in the region. Travel by other modes of transportation, including cruises, trains and buses, will decrease slightly, to 3.5 million travelers nationally.
Meawhile, New Year’s gas prices second-cheapest in nearly a decade.
AAA estimates U.S. drivers have saved more than $27 billion at the gas pumps so far this year compared to the same period last year. Kansas motorists are paying, on average, $2.03 per gallon. Kansas is the fifth lowest gas price average in the nation. Today’s national average price for a gallon of gasoline is $2.22, 22 cents more than the average price on New Year’s Day 2016 ($2). Most U.S. drivers will pay the second-cheapest New Year’s Day gas prices since 2009, when the national average was $1.62.
Holiday airfares, hotel rates and car rental prices mixed
According to AAA’s Leisure Travel Index, holiday airfares are projected to average $204 for a roundtrip flight along the top 40 domestic routes. Rates for AAA Two and Three Diamond Rated lodgings are expected to increase 7 percent, with travelers spending an average of $128 and $160 per night, respectively. Daily car rental rates will average $66, slightly lower than last year’s holiday travel season.
Warm-weather destinations top the list of most popular holiday destinations
With the exception of New York City — an-ever popular holiday destination — warm-weather locales in Nevada, Florida and California top the list of most popular destinations for this holiday season, based on AAA.com bookings.
Not always smooth sailing
Hanni said AAA Kansas expects to rescue more than 2,700 motorists over the 11-day holiday travel period, with the primary reasons being dead batteries and tow service. Drivers should have their vehicles inspected by a trusted repair shop.
For motorists who may encounter winter weather conditions during their holiday road trips, AAA recommends checking windshield wipers and inspecting tires to ensure safe drivability before setting out. Pack an emergency kit containing a snow shovel, flashlight, ice scraper, jumper cables, warning devices and extra warm clothing for everyone riding in the vehicle. When driving, slow down and do not tailgate. Leave following distances to a minimum of five to six seconds to allow additional braking room should a sudden stop become necessary.