Our Terms of Service and Privacy Policy have changed.

By continuing to use this site, you are agreeing to the new Privacy Policy and Terms of Service.

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

Index Last Change % Change
Dow 15,973.84 313.66 2.00%
Nasdaq 4,337.51 70.67 1.66%
S&P 500 1,864.78 35.70 1.95%
Treasuries 1.75 0.10 6.33%
Data as of 4:53am ET
Company Price Change % Change
Bank of America Corp... 11.95 0.79 7.08%
General Electric Co 28.26 0.81 2.95%
Cisco Systems Inc 25.11 0.43 1.74%
Chesapeake Energy Co... 1.59 -0.19 -10.67%
Freeport-McMoRan Inc... 5.53 0.64 13.09%
Data as of Feb 12
Sponsors

Sections

Investors need someone they can bring home to mother instead of bad boys (or girls) that may make their heart beat faster. Boring beats bold in this market. Here are 10 dependable stocks we love. Southwest (ticker symbol: LUV) is one. More

Cheap oil and slow global growth may not be the only culprits of the global market turmoil. There's growing concern that central banks are spooking the markets too. More

Eastern Illinois University laid off 198 staff members this week, and the college president is blaming the state government. More