AAA expects record number of holiday travelers

Posted at 12:25 PM, Dec 15, 2016
and last updated 2016-12-15 14:36:17-05

The American Automobile Association predicts a record number of year-end travelers -– more than 103 million -– will visit family and friends during the holiday period from December 23 through January 3. The AAA says this a 1.5% increase compared with last year. 

The Idaho AAA expects more than 514,000 Gem State residents to join in the journey.

Rising wages and increased employment opportunities in the second half of 2016 have lifted consumer confidence to the point many Americans are willing to finance their holiday plans through debt -– a sure sign of their positive future outlook, according to national AAA officials.

Nine in ten travelers are expected drive during the holidays, resulting in 93.6 million of the expected 103 million travelers hopping into vehicles during a season of relatively low gas prices.

Even so, travelers may feel an unexpected pinch at the pump this holiday season, officials stated. 

While OPEC’s November 30 agreement to reduce oil production doesn’t take effect until January 1, the national average fuel price has steadily increased since the organization’s announcement.

“Future concerns have been prematurely amplified,” said Idaho AAA spokesman Matthew Conde. “Some combination of uncertainty and opportunism has moved prices higher while supply and demand remain similar to previous years.”

He said fuel prices have gone up across the U.S. over the past fifteen days, while Idaho’s recent gas prices have followed a more typical seasonal pattern.  The Gem State is now 20th in the nation for gas prices following several months of ranking in the top ten. Today, the average price in Idaho is $2.25 –- just 2.5 cents above the national average.

“Although the oil and petroleum markets have sharply overreacted to recent OPEC posturing, there is a silver lining,” Conde stated.  “AAA estimates that U.S. drivers have saved more than $27 billion at the pump this year, when compared to the same time period last year.”

Air travel is expected to increase by 2.5 percent as more than six million Americans take to the skies.

Other modes of transportation, such as cruises, trains, and buses will decrease slightly compared to last year.