The number of Americans traveling over the holidays will increase almost 4 percent compared with last year as improved consumer sentiment bolsters trip planning, travel and auto group AAA said on Wednesday.
"The year-end holidays have witnessed declines over the past two years as many Americans curbed travel plans, but this coming holiday season promises to be different," the group said in a statement.
AAA cited an improvement in economic indicators, including a deceleration in unemployment and stabilization in financial and housing markets, as reasons for the expected boost in holiday travel this year.
Some 87.7 million Americans will travel 50 miles or more away from home over the holiday period from December 23 to January 3, AAA forecast. That is 3.2 million, or 3.8 percent, more than traveled over the same period a year ago.
Eighty-eight percent of holiday travelers will travel by car, a 4.4 percent rise from last year in spite of higher gasoline prices, AAA said. Air travel is slated to grow by 2.9 percent and make up 5 percent of total U.S. holiday travel, AAA said, with other modes of transportation, such as train travel, accounting for 7 percent.
During the 2008-2009 holiday season the number of Americans who traveled fell by 4.2 million, or 4.7 percent, to 84.5 million, down from 88.7 million in the previous year, AAA said.