AAA: 115 million Americans likely to travel during the holiday period

Airports anticipate their busiest Christmas and New Year's on record

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115 million Americans likely to travel
Approximately 115.2 million travelers are expected to cover 50 miles or more from home during the 10-day year-end holiday travel period, according to AAA. Driving is projected to be the choice for around 104 million people, marking a 1.8 percent increase from 2022. This holiday season, travelers are opting for warm destinations like Florida and the Caribbean, as well as popular tourist spots such as New York and Las Vegas.

APROXIMATELY 115.2 MILLION travelers are expected to cover 50 miles or more from home during the 10-day year-end holiday travel period, according to AAA. This year’s total number of domestic travelers reflects a 2.2 percent increase over last year and represents the second-highest year-end travel forecast since 2000, when AAA began tracking holiday travel.

However, 2019 holds the record for the busiest Christmas and New Year’s travel period, with 119 million travelers.

“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 at AAA Travel. “More Americans are investing in travel, despite the cost, to make memories with loved ones and experience new places.

AAA expects approximately 104 million people to drive to their holiday destinations, representing a 1.8 percent increase from 2022. This year’s projected number of drivers is the second-highest on record, with 2019 holding the top spot when 108 million drivers traveled for the holidays, AAA said.

As 2023 concludes, drivers can anticipate paying a similar or lower price per gallon of gas compared to the last holiday season. On Christmas Day and New Year’s Day last year, the national average stood at $3.10 and $3.20, respectively.

According to AAA, airports are poised for their busiest Christmas and New Year’s travel period ever. AAA forecasts 7.5 million air travelers this holiday season, surpassing the 2019 record of 7.3 million passengers. Average ticket prices are slightly lower than last year.

Based on AAA booking data, the average roundtrip ticket to Orlando this holiday season is $613, a decrease from last year’s $735. Similarly, a roundtrip ticket to Las Vegas is now $508, down from $705 in 2022.

The number of people traveling by other modes, such as bus, train, and cruise, is projected to surpass 2019, AAA added. Over Christmas and New Year’s, more than 4 million Americans will take alternative transportation, compared to 3.66 million in 2022 and 3.89 million in 2019. Demand for cruises has increased post-pandemic, and the industry is now preparing for the wave of bookings that traditionally occurs at the start of the new year.

This holiday season, travelers are choosing warm destinations like Florida and the Caribbean, popular tourist spots such as New York and Las Vegas, and European cities like London and Rome.

In November, AAA reported that approximately 55.4 million U.S. travelers will journey 50 miles or more from home during the Thanksgiving holiday, reflecting a 2.3 percent increase from last year. This forecast represents AAA’s third-highest Thanksgiving estimate since 2000, with 2005 and 2019 ranking as the top two years.