Holiday travel expected to rise this year

Published 12:00 am Friday, December 20, 2013

Year-end travel is expected to increase for the fifth consecutive year this holiday season, according to numbers released by AAA, but in Covington County, residents may be bucking the trend.

In a Star-News online poll, 86 percent of people said they will be staying home for the holidays, leaving only 14 percent that plan to travel.

Nationally, travel projections are up, with 94.5 million Americans expected to travel 50 miles or more, according to AAA, the country’s largest motoring and leisure travel organization.

Approximately 30 percent of Americans are expected to travel during the holiday period – an uptick of .6 percent from last year, and the highest number recorded by the agency.

For those who will be leaving home, AAA numbers point towards heavy traffic on roadways, as automobiles are again expected to be the dominant mode of transportation. Those traveling by automobiles are projected to account for 91 percent of those on the move this season, a .9 percent increase from 2012. Holiday air travel is expected to decline slightly to 5.53 million travelers, down from 5.61 million last year.

Alabama’s AAA spokesperson Clay Ingram said median spending is also expected to increase slightly this year, with projections of $765, compared to $759 last year. Visiting with friends and family (74 percent), dining (70 percent) and shopping (51 percent) are expected to be the most popular activities.

“While economic growth has stagnated and consumer confidence has fallen, Americans will not be scrooges when it comes to traveling this year,” Ingram said. “AAA is projecting more Americans to travel than ever before to gather with friends and family, exchange presents and ring in the New Year.”

Ingram said only once in the past decade has there been a change in travel volume greater than 5 percent, and that was in the form of a decline in 2007, just as the recession was beginning.

“Of all the travel holidays, the year-end holiday season remains the least volatile as Americans will not let economic conditions dictate their travel plans to celebrate the holidays,” Ingram said.

With nine in 10 holiday travelers driving to their destinations, AAA officials said those out on the roads should be extra diligent about the dangers of increased traffic and impaired driving during the holiday period. State troopers and other law enforcement agencies are also expected to be out in greater number throughout the holiday period, which is defined loosely as Sat., Dec. 21, through Wed., Jan. 1.