The American Automobile Association predicts another busy holiday season, with more than 107 million travelers heading out for snow and family fun during the holiday period from December 22 through January 2 –- that’s a 3 percent increase over last year.
When applied to the Gem State, AAA expects more than 559,000 Idahoans to take part in holiday traveling.
“Reduced seasonal demand has caused gas prices to drop, but the savings haven’t been as significant as in recent years,” said Idaho AAA spokesman Matt Conde. “Even so, in a year marked by high consumer confidence, travelers are ready to hit the roads.”
“All of the major holidays have been accompanied by strong travel activity, largely based on the belief that the economic future is bright,” he added. About one-third of the U.S. population will travel over the holiday season for the ninth consecutive year of rising travel volume.
OPEC (the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries) recently extended crude oil production cuts through the end of 2018 in an attempt to stabilize the oil market and global supply. The move was expected, and U.S. production continues to expand, experts said.
The AAA said fuel prices have dropped eleven cents across the U.S. over the past month. A gallon of regular currently costs $2.45, which is eleven cents less than a month ago and 23 cents more than a year ago.
Idaho is ranked twelfth in the nation for highest gas prices. “Today’s average price in the Gem State is $2.59, which is 34 cents more than a year ago and 14 cents above the national average. At this time last year, the two prices were just 2.5 cents apart,” Conde said.
The majority of travelers -– 90 percent –- continue to make the holiday journey by automobile. About 97.4 million will hit the road; a three percent increase over last year.
Also, about 6.4 million people will take to the air this holiday season, the AAA said -- a four percent increase over last year and the fourth consecutive year of increased air travel volume.
“Idahoans will want to plan on extra time at the airport in some locations, especially if their flights connect through busy airports like Seattle and San Francisco,” Conde pointed out. “Make sure to arrive early, because delays could be more than doubled in these hotspot travel hubs.”
AAA advises travelers to avoid making their holiday trip at peak times. The evenings of Wednesday, December 20 and Thursday, December 21 are expected to be among the busiest travel times.
“Holiday airfares are nearly 20 percent cheaper than last year, which could definitely help put a few more presents under the tree,” said Conde. The average price for a round-trip flight on the top 40 domestic routes is $165, a five-year low. On average, 2017 airfares have been 5 percent cheaper than 2016 prices.
Car rental rates are expected to increase eleven percent over last year, setting a new five-year record high for year-end holiday travel. The increase is similar to Thanksgiving price movement this year.
On the highways, “AAA plans to rescue more than 900,000 travelers on the roadside during the holiday season,” Conde said. “The main culprits will be flat tires, dead batteries, and lockouts, though snow and ice could come into play in some locations. Make sure your vehicle is ready for the conditions.”
Drivers should also carry extra food, water and clothing for people and pets, along with a basic emergency kit that includes a flashlight with extra batteries, a fully charged cell phone with additional mobile power, a first aid kit, flares or emergency reflectors, jumper cables, and something to restore traction, such as sand or kitty litter.