Holiday travelers: Expect crowded highways

bad_weather_car_traffic1.ju.top.jpgBy Aaron Smith, CNNMoney.com staff writer


NEW YORK (CNNMoney.com) -- Expect crowded skies and highways if you're planning to travel this holiday season, as millions more take to the road, according to a forecast issued Wednesday by motorist group AAA.

Holiday travel is expected to jump 3.8% compared to last year, an increase of more than 3 million travelers compared to the 2008 season, AAA said.

Which of these was 2009's dumbest moment in business?
  • Using Chris Farley in a TV ad
  • Dubai's debt threat
  • Goldman Sachs doing 'God's work'
  • The 'Shake the Baby' iPhone app

The travel increase is due to Americans becoming more confident about their finances, despite the ongoing economic weakness, according to the organization.

"High unemployment and reduced discretionary income will continue to keep some would-be travelers at home, but this year many consumers appear to be focused on controlling costs rather than scrapping trips," said the AAA, in its report.

A total of 87.7 million Americans are expected to travel at least 50 miles from home during the 12-day period from Dec. 23 to Jan. 3, up from 84.5 million in 2008, said AAA. The majority of these people -- some 88% -- will drive, while 5% will fly and the remainder will travel by train, bus, boat or other means.

AAA expects a 4.4% boost in holiday driving and a 2.9% rise in air travel, year-over-year.

"Hold your breath when you hit the airport," said Tom Parsons, travel guru at BestFares.com, who expects "super full" planes because of the airline industry's capacity reductions.

Flights have been cut back so that the airlines can reduce costs, which means a greater chance of cancellations from bad weather, he said.

"There's no wiggle room left for the airlines to put people on other planes if there are cancellations," said Parsons. "We have to hope for the perfect no-storm."

Travelers seemed undeterred by higher prices, despite the economic weakness, said AAA, noting that gas prices were higher by 50 cents per gallon in November, year-over-year, while airfares and the price of car rentals jumped 2%.

But hotel prices declined by 10% for hotels rated three diamonds, out of five, by AAA, and by 6% for two-diamond hotels.

AAA based its forecast on a survey of 1,350 households conducted by IHS Global Insight. To top of page

Frontline troops push for solar energy
The U.S. Marines are testing renewable energy technologies like solar to reduce costs and casualties associated with fossil fuels. Play
25 Best Places to find rich singles
Looking for Mr. or Ms. Moneybags? Hunt down the perfect mate in these wealthy cities, which are brimming with unattached professionals. More
Fun festivals: Twins to mustard to pirates!
You'll see double in Twinsburg, Ohio, and Ketchup lovers should beware in Middleton, WI. Here's some of the best and strangest town festivals. Play
Index Last Change % Change
Dow 16,501.65 0.00 0.00%
Nasdaq 4,148.34 21.37 0.52%
S&P 500 1,878.61 3.22 0.17%
Treasuries 2.69 0.00 0.07%
Data as of 8:25pm ET
Company Price Change % Change
Facebook Inc 60.87 -0.49 -0.80%
Bank of America Corp... 16.34 -0.03 -0.18%
Microsoft Corp 39.86 0.17 0.43%
Verizon Communicatio... 46.28 -1.15 -2.42%
Micron Technology In... 26.16 -0.09 -0.34%
Data as of 4:01pm ET
Sponsors

Sections

Apple, Google, Intel and Adobe reach pact avoiding trial in lawsuit claiming they promised not to hire employees away from one another. More

Hundreds of postal workers nationwide protested outside Staples' stores on Thursday. More

Federal regulators are poised to lay down new rules of the road for how Americans access the Internet. More

Schwinn, Trek and Cannondale are all iconic American bicycle brands. But none of them are made in the United States. More

Do you feel like you are overworked? Here are how other people deal with the stress and politics in their jobs. More

Market indexes are shown in real time, except for the DJIA, which is delayed by two minutes. All times are ET. Disclaimer LIBOR Warning: Neither BBA Enterprises Limited, nor the BBA LIBOR Contributor Banks, nor Reuters, can be held liable for any irregularity or inaccuracy of BBA LIBOR. Disclaimer. Morningstar: © 2014 Morningstar, Inc. All Rights Reserved. Disclaimer The Dow Jones IndexesSM are proprietary to and distributed by Dow Jones & Company, Inc. and have been licensed for use. All content of the Dow Jones IndexesSM © 2014 is proprietary to Dow Jones & Company, Inc. Chicago Mercantile Association. The market data is the property of Chicago Mercantile Exchange Inc. and its licensors. All rights reserved. FactSet Research Systems Inc. 2014. All rights reserved. Most stock quote data provided by BATS.