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Auto Club: Decade Of Year-End Travel Growth Creates New Record

Inrix, AAA Provide Travel Data On Worst Times To Leave For Holiday


For the 10th straight year, travel is expected to increase for the Christmas-New Year holiday period compared to last year’s holiday, according to the Automobile Club of Southern California. The Auto Club expects 8.7 million Southern Californians will take trips of 50 miles or more this holiday – up 4.8 percent from last year and the highest number since AAA began tracking holiday travel estimates.

By the numbers

More than 88 percent of local and statewide travelers are expected to drive to their destinations, while eight percent will fly and less than four percent will go by other means such as train, bus or cruise. Below are this year’s Auto Club holiday travel projections for the year-end holiday period, defined as the 11 days from Dec. 22 to Jan. 1:

Mode of travel

Southern California




and % increase from 2017

and % increase from 2017

and % increase from 2017




8.7 million (+4.8%)


14 million (+4.8%)


112 million (+4.4%)


7.7 million (+4.8%)

12.5 million (+4.8%)

102 million (+4.4%)


712,000 (+5.6%)

1.15 million (+5.6%)

6.7 million (+4.2%)


269,000 (+3.3%)

435,000 (+3.3%)

3.7 million (+4.0%)

“Lower unemployment, higher wages and continued consumer confidence are the major reasons we are booking more trips for our members during this holiday and throughout the past year,” said Filomena Andre, the Auto Club’s vice president for travel products and services.

Andre recommends that air travelers arrive at the airport at least two hours early for domestic flights and three hours early for international flights, particularly if their departure is on the three most congested days for flights – Saturday, Dec. 22, Sunday, Dec. 23 and Wednesday, Dec. 26.

An analysis of AAA’s flight booking data reveals that last-minute airfares for the holiday purchased before Dec. 18 could actually be lower than those booked in October and November, although availability will be limited. Travelers who planned ahead this year paid an average of $561 round trip, while those who book last-minute are expected to pay an average of $488 round-trip.

Top Travel Destinations

Anaheim is expected to be the No. 3 destination nationwide for travelers, according to AAA Travel booking data, with Orlando at No. 1 and Cancun at No. 2. The top 5 destinations for Southern California travelers, according to a survey of Auto Club travel agents, are:

1) San Diego

2) Las Vegas

3) Santa Barbara

4) San Francisco

5) Mexico (cruises and resort trips)

Holiday Hotspots

Based on historical and recent travel trends, INRIX expects drivers to experience the greatest amount of congestion before the holiday week – starting on Wednesday, December 19 – as commuters and holiday travelers mix. In Los Angeles, the worst time be on the road for a holiday trip will be Thursday, Dec. 20 from 2:30 to 3:30 p.m.

The Auto Club and INRIX advise travelers to leave either very early in the morning or immediately after the normal morning commute to avoid traffic.

Gas Prices

Southern California gas prices have dropped dramatically in recent weeks and many local holiday travelers should be able to fill up their tanks for less than $3 a gallon as cheaper oil continues to put downward pressure on prices.

More Than 218,000 California Motorists Will Need AAA Roadside Assistance

The Auto Club and AAA in Northern California expect to come to the rescue of more than 218,000 motorists statewide over this holiday period. Dead batteries, lockouts and flat tires will be the top reasons for member calls. The Auto Club recommends that motorists take their vehicle to a trusted repair facility for needed maintenance before heading out on their travels.

To view a list of local AAA-approved auto repair facilities, visit or use the free AAA Mobile app.

Editors: B-roll interview of Auto Club spokesperson Doug Shupe speaking about the holiday forecast (password: Holidays2018)

About the AAA Year-End Holiday Travel Forecast:

AAA’s projections are based on economic forecasting and research by IHS Markit. The London-based business information provider teamed with AAA in 2009 to jointly analyze travel trends during major holidays. AAA has been reporting on holiday travel trends for more than two decades. The complete AAA/IHS Markit 2018 year-end holiday travel forecast is available here.

About INRIX:
INRIX is the global leader in connected car services and transportation analytics. Leveraging big data and the cloud, INRIX delivers comprehensive services and solutions to help move people, cities and businesses forward. Our partners are automakers, governments, mobile operators, developers, advertisers, as well as enterprises large and small. Learn more at


Media Contacts

Marie Montgomery
(714) 420-0477 (cell)

Doug Shupe
LA-based media contact
(512) 659-1632

CST 1016202-80 Copyright © Automobile Club of Southern California. All Rights Reserved.
The Automobile Club of Southern California is a member club affiliated with the American Automobile Association (AAA) national federation and serves members in the following California counties: Inyo, Imperial, Kern, Los Angeles, Mono, Orange, Riverside, San Bernardino, San Diego, San Luis Obispo, Santa Barbara, Tulare, and Ventura.