If you’re planning to hit the road this holiday season, expect to bump into some traffic along the way, according to the American Automobile Association, which forecasts that there will be 115.6 million travelers between Dec. 21 and Jan. 1.
The organization stated that this holiday projection is record-breaking compared to its previous data sets that go back to 2000. Moreover, this year will see a rise of 3.9 percent, which is four million more motorists than in 2018.
“Crowded highways and airports will be the norm for the holidays,” said Robert Sinclair Jr., manager of media relations for AAA Northeast.
“This marks the eighth straight year of record-breaking travel for the year-end holidays.”
The worst day to take up the wheel won’t actually be Christmas Day, it’s actually going to be the day after when more than 104 million holiday motorists will hit the roads, according to the forecast. Afternoon driving delays have been cited as a leading cause for traffic in major U.S. cities by INRIX, a global transportation analytics company.
Gasoline prices are up 17 cents from last year, according to AAA’s records, but this hasn’t hindered Americans’ wanderlust. However, prices have been falling for the last month, according to AAA. As of Dec. 12, the national average for a gallon of regular gas is $2.57, which is two cents cheaper than the previous week and four cents cheaper than the previous month.
AAA anticipates that more than 853,000 motorists will call for roadside assistance this holiday season. To avoid this, the association recommends checking vehicles and making repairs before an extended drive.
Many travelers will hop on a plane to visit family and friends during the holidays. To get more specific, almost 7 million Americans will choose to fly to a destination, which is a 4.9 percent increase. Based on AAA’s records, this amount is notably the most the U.S. has seen since 2003.
According to a AAA travel survey released in September, most air travelers leave two to four days before Christmas. Therefore, Dec. 21 to 23 could see an influx of people in airports and on the road. And Dec. 22 is expected to be the busiest day for holiday travel that week.
The survey found that flyers pay between $593 and $639 on average. Surprisingly, Christmas Eve turns out to be the best day for travel with fewer crowds and lower ticket prices on average at $527 per ticket. However, like travel on the roads, flying picks up again after Christmas Day and remains steady leading up to New Year’s Day. It’s not cheap to travel during peak flying times either, but Dec. 26 has the highest ticket price on average that week at $692.
Buses, trains and cruise ships will receive 3.81 million holiday travelers, which is a 3 percent increase from last year.
New York City and the theme park-filled cities like Orlando, Florida, and Anaheim, California are top destinations in the United States during holiday travel. Domestically, American travelers seek warmer climates, including Phoenix and Las Vegas and destinations in Florida like Miami, Tampa and Ft. Lauderdale. Hawaiian destinations like Honolulu, Maui and Kahului are also popular.
Likewise, the top five international hotspots Americans seek out are in the Caribbean like Punta Cana, Dominican Republic, and Montego Bay, Jamaica, and Mexico, including Cancun, Los Cabos and Puerto Vallarta.