DENVER (Dec. 20, 2022) – Coloradans are spending more on travel than at any other time in the past two years – but they’re not letting rising costs hold them back. AAA’s latest travel forecast finds that 1.93 million Coloradans will journey 50 miles or more away from home from December 23 through January 2, a number second only to the record set in 2019.
“Spin the wheel and you could land on any number of reasons not to travel right now, from economic uncertainty to inflation to fears of a ‘tripledemic.’ Coloradans are nothing if not resilient, though, and they’ve decided to travel for the holidays in nearly record numbers,” said Skyler McKinley, regional director of public affairs for AAA.
Nationwide, 112.7 million Americans will travel during the year-end holidays. That’s an increase of 3.6 million people over last year, and the third busiest on record – though it’s below pre-pandemic levels, suggesting Coloradans are more prone than the national average to get up and go right now.
Planes, Trains and Automobiles
Nationwide, 90% of holiday travelers will drive to their destinations. In Colorado, 1.72 million will hit the roads.
Air travel is up 14% over last year, with nearly 7.2 million Americans expected to fly. Flights and airports will be packed this holiday season in a return to pre-pandemic fervor. Demand for flights has surged despite higher ticket prices, resulting in air travel figures just below 2019.
Other modes of transportation are also rebounding in a big way. AAA estimates travel by bus, rail, and cruise ship will rise to 3.6 million Americans this holiday season, a 23% increase from last year and nearly 94% of 2019’s volume.
Gas Prices: Falling Fast
Road trippers will be rewarded with a little bit more to spend on yuletide cheer: Colorado gas prices have declined every day since October 11. They’ve fallen 53 cents since this time last month and more than a dime on the week.
On Monday, the average price for gasoline in Colorado was $2.87 per gallon. That’s 47 cents cheaper per gallon than a year ago.
“Since most Americans made their holiday travel plans long ago, plunging pump prices won’t necessarily lead to more auto travelers,” McKinley said. “What we often see is consumers reallocating those added savings, spending more on hotels, shopping, and dining out.”
Hotel & Airfare Up; Car Rental Rates Down
Airfares cost 6% more than last year, with the lowest round-trip coming in at $163 compared to $154 in 2021.
Hotels cost more than 2021, with a mid-range AAA Three Diamond property ringing in at $167 per night compared to $160 last year.
Car Rentals cost 19%, down to $105 per day from $130 last year.
Congestion, Congestion, Congestion
Drivers should prepare for delays, particularly in and around major metro areas. Nationwide, drivers could see travel times increase by 25%, according to INRIX, a provider of transportation analytics and insights. The most congested days on the road are forecast to be Friday before Christmas, December 27 and 28, and on Monday, January 2. INRIX predicts the single busiest travel day will be Tuesday, December 27th. The best advice for avoiding congestion is to leave early in the morning or later in the evening.
AAA Advice for Auto Travelers
• Leave early so you’re not in a rush.
• Watch the weather . Consider alternate routes or adjust your departure time to avoid driving through bad weather.
• Never drive distracted. Pre-program your GPS and put the cellphone down while driving.
• Wear your seatbelt and never drive impaired.
AAA to Rescue Nearly 900,000 Stranded Motorists
Approximately 899,000 drivers will call for AAA roadside assistance during the 11-day holiday period.
The most common calls will relate to dead batteries, flat tires, and lockouts. AAA encourages drivers to get a full vehicle inspection before they hit the road to check everything out from the tires up – including oil, the air filter, and wiper blades. We can help you find a mechanic you can trust at AAA.com/AutoRepair.
Ensure your vehicle has an emergency kit . This should include jumper cables, a first-aid kit, car/portable phone chargers, a flashlight with extra batteries, and drinking water and snacks for everyone in the car. Don’t forget an extra set of warm clothes, gloves, hats and blankets. Click here to view a full list of items.
“Move Over for Me”
A mix of winter weather, an increase in impaired drivers, and the influx of auto travelers will make the holidays especially dangerous for those stuck at the roadside. AAA reminds motorists to slow down and move over for first responders and tow trucks, as is required by Colorado law. You should extend the same courtesy to folks with disabled vehicles.
“Every traveler, tow truck driver, first responder, and road crew deserves to make it home for the holidays,” McKinley said. “Saving a life is as easy as slowing down and moving over whenever you see any flashing hazard lights at the roadside.”
Learn more about AAA’s “Move Over for Me” campaign.
Year-End Holiday Travel Period
For purposes of this forecast, the year-end holiday travel period is defined as the 11-day period from Friday, December 23 to Monday, January 2. This period is the same length as the 2021/2022 year-end travel period.
The year-end holiday travel period can range from 10 to 13 days, depending on which day of the week Christmas Day and New Year’s Day fall. All the year-end holiday periods contain two weekends.
In cooperation with AAA, S&P Global Market Intelligence developed a unique methodology to forecast actual domestic travel volumes. The economic variables used to forecast travel for the current holiday are leveraged from S&P Global Market Intelligence’s proprietary databases. These data include macroeconomic drivers such as employment, output, household net worth, asset prices, including stock indices, interest rates, housing market indicators, and variables related to travel and tourism, including gasoline prices, airline travel, and hotel stays. AAA and S&P Global Market Intelligence have quantified holiday travel volumes going back to 2000.
Historical travel volume estimates come from DK SHIFFLET’s TRAVEL PERFORMANCE/Monitor SM. The PERFORMANCE/Monitor SM is a comprehensive study measuring the travel behavior of U.S. residents. DK SHIFFLET contacts over 50,000 U.S. households each month to obtain detailed travel data, resulting in the unique ability to estimate visitor volume and spending, identify trends and forecast U.S. travel behavior-all after the trips have been taken.
The travel forecast is reported in person-trips. In particular, AAA and S&P Global Market Intelligence forecast the total U.S. holiday travel volume and expected mode of transportation. The travel forecast presented in this report was prepared for the week of November 15, 2022.