Hotel prices will fluctuate slightly and car rental rates will reach 10-year high as more Americans than ever on record will travel this holiday season

US travellers will need to budget more for car rentals and hotels this holiday season, according to AAA’s Leisure Travel Index. This shows that the daily average rental rate during this year’s seasonal holiday period will reach USD84, 11% more than last year and the highest price in ten years. Similarly, AAA’s Three Diamond hotel prices have increased 1% to USD153, but its Two Diamond hotels will average USD119, -2% less than last year.

The American Automobile Association (AAA – pronounced ‘Triple A’), the US federation of motor clubs, predicts more Americans than ever on record – 115.6 million – will be travelling this holiday season, between now and the start of 2020. That represents an increase of +3.9% over last year, or 4.3 million more people travelling.

The vast majority of these – more than 104 million – will drive to their destinations and, INRIX, a global transportation analytics company, expects delays to be the worst on 26-Dec-2019, with afternoon delays reaching nearly double congestion-free drive times in major US cities.

There will also be growing demand in other transportation sectors – with +4.9% growth, air travel will see the biggest increase in travel volume during the year-end holidays, with 6.97 million Americans expected to fly – the most since 2003. Similarly, travel by trains, buses and cruise ships is predicted to reach reach 3.81 million, +3% more than last year.

Fortunately, for the 104.8 million Americans traveling by automobile, INRIX, in collaboration with AAA, predicts only marginal delays throughout the holiday week. Nationally, drivers could experience double the travel times on Thursday and Friday afternoon, although New York City and Washington, D.C. could see triple the delays, it warns road travellers.

Congestion will not be the only factor impacting road travellers and AAA says it expects more than 853,000 motorists will call AAA for assistance at the roadside this holiday season. Dead batteries, flat tires and lockouts will be the leading reasons AAA members will experience car trouble.

For those taking to the air, a recent analysis of AAA’s flight booking data revealed that most travellers will depart two to four days prior to the Christmas holiday, Dec. 21-23, with 22-Dec-2019 being the single busiest air travel day of the holiday week.

AA says these travellers, on average, will pay ticket prices between USD593 and USD639. It says 24-Dec-2019 is the best day to travel, with the lowest average price per ticket (USD527) and the fewest crowds of the holiday week, while 26-Dec-2019 has the highest average ticket price of the week at USD692.

But where are all these 115 million people travelling? AAA says theme parks in Orlando and southern California, other warm-weather locales, and the iconic holiday destination New York City top the list of the most popular destinations in the US for the year-end holidays, based on its own advance bookings data.

Many travellers are also seeking warm weather and sandy beaches in Mexico and the Caribbean this holiday season. Cancun, Mexico; Punta Cana, Dominican Republic, Montego Bay, Jamaica, Los Cabos, Mexico; and Puerto Vallarta, Mexico, are AAA’s top five international destinations for the year-end holidays.

CHART – The busiest cities of air travel in the United States of America this holiday seasonSource: CAPA – Centre for Aviation and OAG (data: w/c 23-Dec-2019)