More people are expected to travel around Christmas and New Year’s than last year

More people are expected to travel around Christmas and New Year’s than last year

The American Automobile Association is expecting more people to travel for Christmas than last year. 

AAA is forecasting 115.2 million people will travel at least 50 miles from home between Dec. 23 and New Year’s Day. 


The big picture: The 10-day period to end the year is projecting to be a 2.2 percent increase over last year, and the second-highest total since AAA started keeping track in 2000. 

  • Last year 112.7 million people traveled at the end of December. 
  • There were 119 million travelers in 2019, making that the busiest Christmas and New Year’s travel season in history. 

The breakdown: AAA expects the vast majority of travelers to go by car, with 103.6 million projected to drive. 

  • The auto club projects 7.51 million people to fly, which would be greater than 2019, which saw 7.33 million people travel by air. 
  • AAA also projects 4.05 million people to travel by other means, such as by train or bus. 
  • With airports projected to be the busiest they’ve ever been over Christmas and New Year’s, average ticket prices are slightly lower than last year. 

When to drive: Transportation data and insights provider INRIX says Dec. 23 and Dec. 28 will be the most congested days on the road. 

  • INRIX also expects Dec. 30 to see increased traffic compared to a normal Saturday. 
  • INRIX says the best times to start driving are before lunchtime or after 7 p.m. 

What they’re saying: “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.” 

  • Bob Pishue, a transportation analyst at INRIX, suggests travelers avoid peak commuting hours and use traffic apps, local DOT notifications and 511 services to minimize frustrations. 
  • “Nationwide, drivers could see travel times up to 20 percent longer this holiday season,” Pishue said. “In major metros, especially in Denver, Minneapolis, and Washington DC, drivers could experience nearly double the typical delays.”
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