More than 107 million Americans will drive, fly or use other means of transportation to travel this holiday season. That’s an increase of 3.1% year over year and marks the ninth consecutive year of rising holiday season travel, according to AAA. Since 2005, total year-end holiday travel volume has risen by 21.6 million, an increase of more than 25%.
Motorists comprise the largest share of the traveling public, with an expected 97.4 million Americans forecast to hit the roads. Airline travel accounts for another 6.4 million (up 4.1% year over year) while trains, buses, rails and cruise ships will see 3.6 million travelers.
The forecasts were released Thursday morning by AAA and Inrix, a global transportation analytics firm based in London. Inrix and AAA also predict that travel times for motorists could increase by as much as a factor of three during the holiday week.
Based on travel trends, Inrix expects traffic congestion to peak on December 20 and 21 as commuters leave work early and mix with holiday travelers. The firm projected days and hours of peak traffic along with delay multipliers for some of the country’s largest cities:
- New York: Wednesday, December 20; 3:30 to 5:30 p.m.; 3× delay
- Los Angeles: Wednesday; 3:30 to 6:00 p.m.; 2.5×
- Washington, DC: Thursday, December 21; 3:00 to 6:00 p.m.; 2.5×
- San Francisco: Wednesday; 3:00 to 5:30 p.m.; 2×
- Chicago: Thursday; 4:00 to 6:00 p.m.; 2×
- Boston: Thursday; 2:30 to 4:30 p.m.; 2×
- Seattle: Wednesday; 4:00 to 6:00 p.m.; 2×
For those traveling by automobile, gasoline prices will be higher than at any holiday season since 2014. AAA has a national average price per gallon of regular gas at $2.47, up $0.28 from last year. The organization expects gas prices to dip by about five cents a gallon by the end of the year.
Top air travel destinations are predicted to be:
- Orlando, Florida (Disney World)
- Anaheim, California (Disneyland)
- Cancun, Mexico
- Honolulu, Hawaii
- Kahului (Maui), Hawaii
Holiday season airfares are about 20% less than they were a year ago at $165 for a round-trip flight to the top 40 domestic routes, a five-year low according to AAA. On average, airfares are 5% lower than a year ago. AAA noted that room rates at its Two- and Three-Diamond rated hotels are down 2% ($121 per night) and 5% ($156 per night), respectively.
Car rental rates are higher, however, up 11% to $74 a day, a five-year record high for end-of-year travel.