AAA expects travel increase this holiday

December 16th, 2010 by Mariah

(CNN) — Americans traveling to see family and friends during the upcoming holiday season will have more company on the roads and in the skies, according to projections by AAA.

About 3.1% more Americans will travel at least 50 miles from home compared with last year, the AAA said Wednesday. The group expects 92.3 million Americans to travel at least 50 miles from December 23 to January 2.

“After a challenging year in 2009, a modestly improved economic environment and pent-up demand resulted in more Americans traveling in 2010, and the year-end holidays are no exception,” a AAA statement said.

The average distance for travel is expected to increase by 33%, the number of air travelers by almost 3% and median spending about 3.5%, to $694, AAA said.

About 85.7 million people will drive to holiday destinations, compared with 83 million last year, AAA said.

“This is the fifth consecutive holiday period this year in which AAA has predicted a year-to-year increase in the number of travelers,” Glen MacDonell, director of AAA Travel Services, said in the statement.

In addition, AAA said, airfares are expected to be 3% less than last year, with an average lowest round-trip rate of $174 for the top 40 U.S. air routes. Weekend daily car rental rates will hold steady at an average of $50, the group said.