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Auto Club: Year Ends With A New Holiday Travel Record

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

Tropical Christmas by Chad H
Photo copyright Chad H

This year-end holiday travel season will set a new all-time record for the number of Southern California travelers because of favorable economic conditions, according to projections from the Automobile Club of Southern California. Nearly 8.2 million Southern California residents and 13.2 million statewide are expected to travel at least 50 miles away from home during the holiday period between Dec. 23 and Jan. 1 – a 3.6 percent increase from the 2016 holiday.


The vast majority of Southern California travelers – 7.2 million from Southern California and 11.7 million statewide, or 89 percent of all travelers – will go by car to their destinations. That’s a 3.5 percent increase from last year’s Christmas-New Year’s Day holiday.  More than 665,000 local residents and nearly 1.1 million Californians are expected to fly, which is a 5.5 percent increase over 2016. More than 260,000 Southern Californians and 425,000 statewide will travel by bus, train, cruise or other means to holiday destinations – a 1.6 percent increase from last year.


Nationally, AAA projects 107 million travelers over the Christmas-New Year’s Day holiday, topping last year’s 104 million end-of-year travelers by 3.1 percent.


This marks the ninth consecutive year of growth for end-of-year holiday travel.


“Holiday travelers who booked ahead saved on airfares, which were about 20 percent lower than for this time last year, and on hotel rates, which were slightly cheaper than for last year’s holiday,” said Filomena Andre, the Auto Club’s vice president for travel products and services. “Economic health and some lower travel costs are giving consumers more opportunities to enjoy ‘big ticket’ vacations during the holidays and throughout the year.”


Southern California gas prices have been dropping for more than a month, but are still more than 40 cents higher per gallon than at this time last year. While that extra cost adds about $6 to an average tank fill-up, the Auto Club expects little impact on holiday travel.


Nationally, Anaheim ranks as the No. 2 destination for travelers this holiday. Locally, the top five destinations for Southern California travelers, according to a poll of Auto Club travel agents, are:


1) San Francisco

2) San Diego

3) Palm Springs

4) Mexico (cruises and resorts)

5) Las Vegas


Hawaii is the top air destination for Southern California travelers this holiday.


Holiday Headache Hotspots

Although the official holiday travel period begins Saturday, Dec. 23, the transportation analytics firm INRIX projects that the worst time for Southland travelers to get on the road will be Wednesday, Dec. 20 between 3:30 p.m. and 6 p.m., when a significant number of commuters will also be heading home. Drivers on Southern California freeways at that time may take up to two-and-a-half times longer to reach their destinations.


 INRIX also predicts that the afternoon and early evening hours on Thursday, Dec. 21 will be congested with a mix of commuters and holiday travelers.


The Auto Club and INRIX recommend that holiday travelers try to leave early in the morning or immediately after the normal morning rush hour. Driving on Christmas Eve, Christmas Day or New Year’s Day may also be less congested for travelers.


Lockouts, flat tires to strand nearly one million motorists
With most holiday travelers driving to their destinations, AAA expects to rescue nearly one million (901,600) motorists.  Car battery-related issues, lockouts and flat tires will be the leading reasons AAA is called for roadside assistance over the holidays. For members in need of roadside assistance, download the AAA Mobile app, visit or call 1-800-AAA-HELP. For added convenience, Wazers can now request AAA roadside assistance directly from the Waze app by tapping the Report menu. 


Before hitting the road, make sure your vehicle is road-trip ready. Stop by a trusted repair shop, such as one of the more than 7,000 AAA Approved Auto Repair facilities across North America, for an inspection. In case of an emergency, be prepared by keeping a cell phone and charger with you at all times. Carry an emergency kit with a flashlight, extra batteries, warning devices such as flares or reflective triangles, jumper cables, a first-aid kit and extra water.


Editors note: Broadcast-quality downloadable video of Auto Club spokesperson Doug Shupe providing year-end holiday travel information is available at Password: Holidays2017


About the AAA 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 2017 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.


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.