AAA: Small increase in holiday season travel this year

A month after a flat Thanksgiving travel period, Americans have decided to make merry and take a trip over the Christmas and New Year’s holiday, according to AAA Southern New England.

During the end-of-the-year holiday season, an estimated 94.5 million Americans — a 0.6% increase over last year — will either visit family or friends, or go on vacation, between Saturday, Dec. 21 and Wednesday, Jan. 1.

In New England, about 28% of a population of 4 million are traveling, a 0.7% increase from the previous year.

The AAA’s annual holiday travel survey found the upward national trend marks the fifth consecutive year of increases during the year-end holiday period. In addition, the national number reflects the highest holiday travel volume AAA — a motor and leisure travel club previously known as the American Automobile Association — has recorded for the season.

Vast majority of people travel by car

Of the overall 94.5 million folks traveling nationally:

— 91%, or 85.8 million people, will travel by automobile (a 0.9% increase over last year).

— 6%, or 5.53 million people, will travel by air (a 1.4% decrease).

— The remaining 3.13 million will take some other form of transportation, such as bus and ferry.

Economy is factor in travel decisions

Travel experts are attributing this year’s small regional and national holiday increase to the country’s sluggish economic recovery. Even though the economy continues to improve, there’s still an air of uncertainty in the minds of travelers about spending money.

The AAA’s projections are based on economic forecasting and research by IHS Global Insight, a Colorado-based business information provider. The AAA has been reporting on holiday travel trends for more than two decades.

About the region’s AAA organization

Locally, AAA Southern New England has 50 offices in Connecticut, Massachusetts, New Jersey and Rhode Island. In Connecticut, the territory includes Fairfield, New Haven, and Litchfield counties.

The regional AAA provides more than 3.5 million members with travel, insurance, finance, and auto-related services.