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Wednesday, May 29, 2024

ICYMI: AAA Predicts 115 Million Americans Expected to Travel over Christmas, New Year’s

Richmond International Airport. (Christopher Six/WYDaily)

VIRGINIA BEACH — AAA is projecting 115.2 million travelers will head 50 miles or more from home over the 10-day year-end holiday travel period from Saturday, Dec. 23 to Monday, Jan. 1 — a 2.2% increase over last year and the second highest year-end travel forecast since AAA began tracking holiday travel in 2000.

“This year-end holiday forecast, with an additional 2.5 million travelers compared to last year, mirrors what AAA Travel has been observing throughout 2023,” said Paula Twidale, Senior Vice President of AAA Travel. “More Americans are investing in travel, despite the cost, to make memories with loved ones and experience new places.”

According to AAA, 2019 remains the busiest Christmas and New Year’s travel period on record, with 119 million travelers.

(AAA Tidewater)

AAA said it expects nearly 104 million people will drive to their holiday destinations, an increase of 1.8% compared to 2022 and the second highest on record after 2019, when 108 million drivers hit the road for the holidays. Drivers can expect to pay about the same or less for a gallon of gas than they did last holiday season, it added.

Airports are expected to be the busiest they’ve ever been over the Christmas and New Year’s travel period. AAA is projecting 7.5 million air travelers this holiday season, surpassing 2019’s record of 7.3 million passengers. Average ticket prices are slightly lower than last year, according to AAA booking data, with the average price for a roundtrip ticket to Orlando at $613, down from $735 last year.

“It depends on your desired route and destination. There are last-minute deals to be found, but if your preference is a nonstop flight with seat selection, AAA recommends booking well in advance and protecting your investment with travel insurance,” Twidale added.

The number of people traveling by other modes, like bus, train, and cruise, is also projected to surpass 2019. AAA expects more than 4 million Americans will take alternative transportation over the holidays. AAA noted demand for cruises has skyrocketed post-pandemic, as well.

“Savvy travelers know that right after the holidays is the best time to book a cruise,” Twidale said. “That’s when cruise lines offer some of the best deals, and AAA members get exclusive benefits in addition to those discounts.”

Best/Worst Times to Drive

INRIX, a provider of transportation data and insights, said there will be several days of potentially bad traffic during the 10-day holiday period. Saturday, Dec. 23, and Thursday, Dec. 28, will be the most congested days on the road, it said, as will Saturday, Dec. 30, when many people will be heading back home from their holiday destinations or traveling for New Year’s Eve. The best times to hit the road are before lunchtime or after 7 p.m., it advises.

(AAA Tidewater)

“Nationwide, drivers could see travel times up to 20% longer this holiday season. In major metros, especially in Denver, Minneapolis, and Washington, D.C., drivers could experience nearly double the typical delays,” said Bob Pishue, transportation analyst at INRIX. “Avoid peak commuting hours and use traffic apps, local DOT notifications, and 511 services to minimize holiday travel traffic frustrations.”

Top Destinations

Many travelers are heading to warm weather destinations like Florida and the Caribbean, tourist hotspots like New York and Las Vegas, and European cities like London and Rome for the holidays, AAA said.

(AAA Tidewater)

Airport Parking Tips

AAA recommends travelers plan ahead and take precautions when driving to the airport and parking their vehicles. The organization offers the following tips for those traveling by air:

  • Reserve a parking spot ahead of time to save time and money.
  • Choose a well-lit, secure garage.
  • On-site garages tend to be more expensive but offer convenience and peace of mind given their proximity to the terminals.
  • If choosing off-site parking, look for reputable businesses like The Parking Spot, which is securely fenced and offers a shuttle to the airport (AAA members get a discount).
  • Opt for covered parking if you live in an area expecting inclement weather.
  • Remove valuables from your vehicle.
  • Lock doors and roll up windows.
  • Take a photo of your spot to remember where you parked.
  • Keep your ticket – and receipt, if you prepaid – handy to show when exiting.

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