Home » Blog » Holiday Forecast: Less Overall Travelers than 2019, But Record Air Travel Expected
News Travel United States

Holiday Forecast: Less Overall Travelers than 2019, But Record Air Travel Expected

More than 115 million Americans are predicted to travel 50 miles or more between Christmas and New Year’s this year, marking the second-busiest year since AAA began tracking holiday travel, the organization said Monday. The expected 115.2 million travelers are expected to traverse by plane, train, car, bus and cruise ship, about 2.2% more than last year, AAA said. The busiest year for travel was 2019, when 119 million people left their homes.

“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.”

Most traveling by car, but expect airports to be packed

The majority of Americans, or 104 million, will be driving to their destinations, AAA predicts. This is about 1.8% more drivers than last year. It’s also just 4 million less than the busiest year on the roads − which, unsurprisingly, was 2019. Though most travelers will be driving, airports are expected to be the busiest on record.

AAA projects that 7.5 million people will be flying, more than the previous record set in 2019, when 7.3 million people traveled by air. While there’s no clear reason for the uptick, AAA said ticket prices are slightly lower than last year. Of course, “it depends on your desired route and destination” Twidale said.

Still, those willing to fly on low-cost airlines such as Spirit, Frontier and Avelo can find relatively cheap last-minute fares. A one-way ticket from New Castle Airport to Tampa, Florida, for example, is as low as $82 on Avelo if one is willing to travel on Christmas Day. And a ticket to Nashville that day, also from New Castle, is only $52. Prices jump later that week, however.

Other modes of transport

Like air travel, the number of people traveling by other modes, such as bus, train and cruise, is also projected to surpass 2019. More than 4 million Americans will travel this way, AAA expects, compared to 3.66 million last year and 3.89 million in 2019. The demand for cruises has also “skyrocketed” since the pandemic, AAA said, and “industry is now preparing for the wave of bookings that traditionally happens at the start of the new year.”

“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.”

Delaware, U.S. gas prices slightly lower than last year

Currently, gas prices in both Delaware and across the U.S. are slightly lower than they were last year, reflecting a trend that’s been seen for much of 2023. Nationally as of Monday, the average price of gas was $3.15, compared to $3.27 at this time last year. In Delaware, the average was $3.01 on Monday compared to $3.23 in 2022.

Kent County recorded the highest average of $3.02, followed by New Castle at $3.019 and Sussex at $2.99. AAA said the main reason is a weaker cost for oil, which is struggling to stay above $70 per barrel. While it remains unclear exactly how much prices will fluctuate between now and the New Year, AAA predicts that drivers will pay about the same or even less than they did last holiday season, when the national average on Christmas Day and New Year’s Day was $3.10 and $3.20, respectively.

I’m driving. What days are best to travel?

While AAA recommends traveling at specific times on specific days to beat traffic, drivers who travel on Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, Dec. 31 and New Year’s Day should encounter the least amount of traffic. Dec. 23 will likely be the worst day for traffic, with AAA suggesting drivers head out before 10 a.m. Traffic is expected to be bad through the early evening, or about 7 p.m.

With Delaware a pass-through state for many headed both north and south, the Delaware Department of Transportation is gearing up for many drivers on the road and reminds motorists to slow down, buckle up and be patient.

Source: Delaware Online