Gas prices drop to five year low: A holiday gift for motorists

AAA LogoAAA Mid-Atlantic projects more than one-third of Virginians, 2.8 million, (2,823,794), will journey 50 miles or more from home during the year-end holiday season, an increase of 3.5% from last year.

This upward trend marks the highest forecast growth rate for the year-end holiday season since 2009 and the highest travel volume for the holiday period on record. (AAA data dates back to 2001.) The year-end holiday period is defined as Tuesday, December 23 to Sunday, January 4.


Highlights from 2014/2015 Year-End Holiday Travel Forecast:

  • Holiday travel is expected to total 2.8 million in Virginia, an increase of 3.5% from the 2.7 million who traveled last year.
  • Travel volume for the year-end holidays in the Commonwealth of Virginia will reach the highest peak recorded by AAA (since 2001).
  • Nearly 91 percent of Virginia travelers (2.5 million) will celebrate the holidays with a road trip, an increase of 4.2 percent from 2013.
  • Air travel is forecast to fall by 0.6 percent from 2013, with 151,804 travelers taking to the skies.
  • Low gas prices continue to help boost disposable income this holiday season, with today’s Virginia average price of gas at $2.36 per gallon, 79 cents less than a year ago.
  • Year-end holiday travel period is defined as the 13-day period from Tuesday, December 23 to Sunday, January 4.

“Rising disposable income, an extended holiday period, and lower gas prices are boosting this year’s year-end holiday travel,” said Martha Mitchell Meade, Manager of Public and Government Affairs for AAA Mid-Atlantic.  “Gas prices are at the lowest level seen in more than five years, filling motorists’ stockings with extra holiday cash.”

Moreover, the calendar is having a positive effect on the number of travelers expected this year. This year the holidays land on a Thursday, creating a holiday travel season that is one day longer than last year’s and the longest since 2008, offering travelers more options for departures and return trips. This flexibility makes it possible for more people to fit holiday travel into their schedules.


Impact of gasoline prices on travel plans

Today’s national average price of gasoline is at the lowest level in five years and 74 cents lower than last year, a welcome gift for holiday travelers.  Likewise, in Virginia motorists are paying $2.36 per gallon on average, the lowest level seen since September, 2009.  Falling gas prices have helped boost disposable income by3.5 percent from year-ago levels, which has had a positive effect on travel.


Hotel, car rental rates rise modestly

According to AAA’s Leisure Travel Index, hotel rates for AAA Three Diamond lodgings are expected to increase four percent from one year ago with travelers spending an average of $143 per night compared to $138 last year. The average hotel rate for AAA Two Diamond hotels has risen five percent with an average cost of $108 per night. Daily car rental rates will average $66, four percent higher than last year.


Airfares fall seven percent this year, driven by low-cost carriers

Average discounted round-trip airfares across 40 top domestic routes are expected to fall seven percent this year, to $186. This is influenced by the availability of discounted rates from low-cost carriers in several top markets. AAA encourages travelers to consider the full cost of a ticket when purchasing air travel, as many airlines charge ancillary fees for checked bags, meals, priority boarding and seat assignments.


AAA expects to rescue 1.1 million motorists this holiday season

Between December 23 and January 4, AAA expects to come to the rescue of 1.1million motorists nationally with the primary reasons for breakdowns being dead batteries, flat tires and lockouts. In the Mid-Atlantic region AAA expects to rescue over 74,000 motorists; with 13,890 in Virginia.  AAA 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


National Picture

Nationally, AAA projects 98.6 million Americans will journey 50 miles or more from home during the year-end holiday season, an increase of four percent from the 94.8 million people who traveled last year. This upward trend marks the highest forecast growth rate for the year-end holiday season since 2009 and the highest travel volume for the holiday period on record. (AAA data dates back to 2001.)

As to their preferred modes of transportation for the holidays, nearly ninety-one percent of travelers, or 89.5 million persons, will travel by automobile (an increase of 4.2 percent); 5.7 million travelers will fly to their holiday destinations (a one percent increase from last year); and 3.35 million persons will travel by rail or bus and even, by sea via cruise ship.


AAA offers travel planning resources

AAA’s digital tools for travel planning on the go include the free AAA Mobile app for iPhone, iPad and Android. Travelers can use the app to map a route, find current gas prices and discounts, book a hotel and access AAA roadside assistance. Travelers can learn more

On, travelers can find more than 58,000 AAA Approved and Diamond Rated hotels and restaurants using the TripTik Travel Planner or the searchable Travel Guides at Every AAA Approved establishment offers the assurance of acceptable cleanliness, comfort and hospitality, and ratings of One to Five Diamonds help travelers find the right match for amenities and services.

AAA’s collection of downloadable eTourBook guides for tablets and smartphones is available free to members at Choose from 101 top North American destinations including city titles, like the award-winning Las Vegas, and regions like Wine Country and national parks.

AAA’s projections are based on economic forecasting and research by IHS Global Insight. The Colorado-based business information provider teamed with AAA in 2009 to jointly analyze travel trends during the major holidays. AAA has been reporting on holiday travel trends for more than two decades. The complete AAA/IHS Global Insight 2014 Year-End Travel Forecast can be found here.


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