AAA Colorado projects 1.6 million Coloradans (31.4 percent of the state’s population) will journey 50 miles or more from home during the year-end holiday season, an increase of 0.5 percent over last year.
Of all the travel holidays, the year-end holiday season remains the least volatile. Only once in the past decade has there been a change in travel volume greater than 5 percent and that was a decline in 2007 as the recession was just getting started.
Spanning both the Christmas and New Year Holidays and two weekends, the year-end holiday period is defined as Saturday, Dec. 21, to Wednesday, Jan. 1.
Nine out of 10 will drive
Approximately 90 percent of Colorado travelers or 1.45 million people plan to travel by automobile during the year-end holidays. This is a 0.9 percent increase over last year.
Gas prices in Colorado have declined by 11 cents since Thanksgiving to a statewide average of $3.05 near the end of December, compared to $2.99 the first week of January, 2013. AAA Colorado expects most drivers will pay less nationwide to fill up during the holiday season than a year ago. Prices should continue to decline nationwide through the end of the year due to rising supplies and increased refinery production.
Air travel decreases
Air travel is expected to decrease 1.7 percent as 113,000 holiday travelers will take to the skies. Those traveling by air will find airfares slightly lower than last year, according to AAA’s Leisure travel Index. During Christmas week the average lowest round-trip rate is $199 for the top 40 U.S. air routes compared to $204 last year.
Hotel rates flat
According to AAA’s Leisure Travel Index, hotel rates for AAA Three Diamond lodgings are expected to average $138 per night compared to $142 last year. Travelers planning to stay at AAA Two Diamond hotels can expect to pay an average cost of $102 per night, compared to $101 in 2012. Weekend daily car rental rates will average $63, compared to $55 last year.
Travel distance decreases
According to the survey of intended travelers, the average distance traveled is expected to be 970 miles, which is a decrease of 68 miles from last year when travelers logged 1,038 miles.
The longest holiday period of the year enables travelers to spend time with loved ones, take a vacation or both. Median spending is expected to be $812, up from $694 last year. Visiting with friends and family (63 percent), dining (68 percent) and shopping (55 percent) will be the most popular activities. A number of Coloradans also plan to enjoy night life (32 percent), sight-see (26 percent) and participate in snow-related activities (11 percent).
With nine in 10 holiday travelers driving to their destinations, AAA Colorado urges motorists to prepare their cars and be diligent about the dangers of impaired driving particularly when holiday partygoers may risk getting behind the wheel after a festive evening.
Primary reasons for automotive breakdowns during the holidays are dead batteries, flat tires and lockouts. AAA Colorado recommends motorists check battery and tire condition and prepare vehicles for winter driving before heading out on a holiday getaway. Car care tips and information are available at AAA.com.
According to the latest data from the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety’s annual Traffic Safety Culture Index, one in five licensed drivers that drink at least occasionally reported having driven when they thought their alcohol level might have been close to, or possibly over, the legal limit in the past year. The survey also reveals that 96 percent of drivers consider impaired driving to be unacceptable, with 50 percent reporting that drunk drivers are a bigger problem today versus three years ago. Despite the ubiquitous warnings about drinking and driving especially during the holiday season, impaired driving crashes still represent one in three motor vehicle deaths nationwide.