INDIANAPOLIS -- If you're traveling this holiday season, expect a crowd.
The number of year-end holiday travelers will top 100 million for the first time on record, according to projections by AAA. Nearly one in three Americans will take a trip this holiday season, with 100.5 million expected to journey 50 miles or more from home. This represents a 1.4 percent increase over last year and the seventh consecutive year of year-end holiday travel growth.
The year-end holiday travel period is defined as Wednesday, December 23, 2015 to Sunday, January 3, 2016.
The increase in holiday travel this year is being driven by continued improvement in the labor market combined with rising household incomes. Reduced gas prices are also fueling increased travel trends.
Driving remains most popular
More than 90 percent of travelers (91.3 million people) will drive to their holiday destinations, an increase of 1.4 percent over last year. Air travel is expected to increase by 0.7 percent, with 5.8 million Americans flying to their holiday destinations. Travel by other modes of transportation, including cruises, trains and buses, will increase 2.4 percent, to 3.4 million travelers.
Lowest New Year's gas prices in seven years expected
The national average price for a gallon of gasoline fell below the $2 per gallon benchmark for the fist time since March 2009. On Monday, the national average is $1.99 per gallon. Indiana's statewide gas price average was $1.82 on Monday. At this time last year, that average was $2.31.
Airfares fall, hotel and car rental rates rise modestly
According to AAA's Leisure Travel Index, airfares for the top 40 domestic flight routes are six percent lower this holiday season (an average of $174 per roundtrip) compared to 2014. Rates for AAA Three Diamond Rated lodgings will be four percent higher this year, with travelers spending an average of $150 per night. The average rate for a AAA Two Diamond Rated hotel has risen 11 percent with an average nightly cost of $119. Daily car rental rates will average $68, three percent higher than last year's holiday travel season.