‘Tis the season to traditionally spend with family and friends and this year Americans are traveling in record numbers.
AAA forecasts 107.3 million Americans will take to planes, trains, automobiles and other modes of transportation during the year-end holiday period from Saturday, Dec. 23 through Monday, Jan. 1. This will be the highest year-end travel volume on record and a 3.1 percent increase in travel volume compared with last year. 2017 marks the ninth consecutive year of rising year-end holiday travel. Since 2005, total year-end holiday travel volume has grown by 21.6 million, an increase of more than 25 percent.
“More expensive gas prices are not swaying holiday revellers to stay home,” said Bill Sutherland, AAA senior vice president of Travel and Publishing. “In fact, across the board this year, travel has increased year-over-year for every major holiday weekend – Memorial Day, Independence Day, Thanksgiving – and we project the same for the year-end holiday period. We’ve seen the strong economy and growing consumer confidence fuel holiday travel all year long.”
For the 97.4 million Americans traveling by automobile, INRIX, a global transportation analytics company, in collaboration with AAA, predicts travel times during the holiday week could be as much as three times longer than the normal trip.
By the Numbers: 2017 Year-End Holiday Travel Forecast
Automobiles: The majority of travellers – 97.4 million – will hit the road, a 3 percent year-over-year increase.
Planes: 6.4 million people will travel by air, a 4.1 percent increase and the fourth year of consecutive air travel volume increases.
Trains, Buses, Rails and Cruise Ships: Travel across these sectors will increase by 2.2 percent to 3.6 million.
Based on historical and recent travel trends, INRIX expects drivers will experience the greatest amount of congestion before the holiday week – on Wednesday, Dec. 20 and Thursday, Dec. 21 – in the late afternoon as commuters leave work early and mix with holiday travellers.
“With record-level travelers hitting the road this holiday, drivers must be prepared for delays in major metros,” says Dr. Graham Cookson, chief economist & head of research at INRIX. “Our advice to drivers is to avoid peak times altogether or consider alternative routes.”
The metro areas with the worst traffics are New York City; Los Angeles; Washington DC; San Francisco; Chicago; Boston; Seattle; Atlanta; Houston; and Detroit.
Try to avoid traveling through major cities during peak travel times. The best times to leave are typically early morning or after the morning commute because the roads should be less crowded and you will have more time to get to your destination safely. If your schedule permits, traveling on the holiday itself often results in fewer cars on the road.
The 90 percent of holiday travellers choosing to drive will find the most expensive year-end gas prices since 2014. This December’s national average price through the first half of the month is $2.47, which is 28 cents more than last December. The good news is that AAA does expect the average to drop at least another five cents by year-end, saving motorists a few pennies at the pump.