More Americans than ever will be traveling for Christmas this year; tips for a stress-free holiday commute

Photo by Khamidulin1/iStock/Getty Images Plus, St. George News

ST. GEORGE — More Americans than ever on record – 115.6 million – will travel this holiday season from Dec. 21 through Jan. 1, according to AAA.

115.6 million is the most travelers in nearly 20 years since AAA began tracking in 2000 and represents an increase of 3.9% over last year, or 4.3 million more people packing up their sleighs for a holiday getaway.

Nationwide, more than 104 million holiday travelers will drive to their destinations and INRIX, a global transportation analytics company, expects delays to be the worst on Dec. 26, with afternoon delays reaching nearly double congestion-free drive times in major U.S. cities.

“Holiday cheer is at an all-time high this year, with unemployment at historically low levels and noted improvements in both disposable income and household net worth,” Aldo Vazquez, spokesperson for AAA Utah, said in a press release. “Travelers should be getting used to crowded highways and airports, as this marks the eighth straight year of new record high travel volumes for the year-end holidays.”

Not only will Americans break travel records this year, but more than ever on record will be traveling by vehicle this holiday season.

Automobiles: 104.8 million Americans, the most on record, will drive to their holiday destinations. That means 3.9 million more people are expected on the roads compared with last year, for an increase of 3.9%.

Planes: With 4.9% growth, air travel will see the biggest increase in travel volume during the year-end holidays, with 6.97 million Americans expected to fly – the most since 2003.

Trains, buses and cruise ships: Travel by these other modes will reach 3.81 million, 3% more than last year.

For the 104.8 million Americans traveling by automobile, INRIX, in collaboration with AAA, predicts only marginal delays throughout the holiday week. Nationally, drivers may experience double the travel times on Thursday and Friday afternoon.

“With kids out of school and many Americans taking extended time off for the holidays, drivers will experience only incremental delays throughout the week. Although congestion will be lighter than normal, knowing when and where major delays will likely happen will help save time and reduce stress this holiday season,” Vazquez said.

The holidays can be a stressful time. AAA encourages drivers to maintain a cool head and focus on reaching their destination safely. AAA offers these tips to help prevent road rage:

  • Do not offend. Never cause another driver to change their speed or direction. That means not forcing another driver to use their brakes or turn the steering wheel in response to something you have done.
  • Be tolerant and forgiving. The other driver may just be having a really bad day. Assume that it is not personal.
  • Do not respond. Avoid eye contact, don’t make gestures, maintain space around your vehicle and contact 911 if needed.  

Tips and facts for holiday travel

More than 853,000 motorists will call AAA for assistance at the roadside this holiday season. AAA expects to rescue more than 3,400 stranded motorists across Utah during this time. Dead batteries, flat tires and lockouts are expected to be the leading reasons AAA members will experience car trouble.

The top calls for service in Utah over the Christmas holiday last year was for towing, vehicle lockouts and flat tires.  AAA recommends motorists take their vehicles to a trusted repair facility to perform any needed maintenance before heading out on a road trip. 

A recent analysis of AAA’s flight booking data revealed that most travelers depart two to four days prior to the Christmas holiday, namely on Dec. 21-23, with the Dec. 22 being the single busiest air travel day of the holiday week. These travelers, on average, pay ticket prices between $593 and $639. 

Christmas Eve is the best day to travel, with the lowest average price per ticket ($527) and the fewest crowds of the holiday week. Many travelers opt to fly after the Christmas holiday leading up to New Year’s, and they pay a premium to do so. Dec. 26 has the highest average ticket price of the week at $692.

 Travelers will also need to budget more for car rentals this holiday season. According to AAA’s Leisure Travel Index, the daily average rental rate this Christmas and New Year’s will reach $84, 11% more than last year and the highest price in 10 years. 

 Theme parks in Orlando and southern California, other warm-weather locales, and the iconic holiday destination of New York City top the list of 10 most popular destinations in the U.S. for the year-end holidays. Based on advance AAA Travel bookings, the top 10 year-end travel destinations are: 

  1. Orlando, Florida
  2. Anaheim, California
  3. Honolulu, Hawaii
  4. Kahului, Maui, Hawaii
  5. Las Vegas, Nevada
  6. Ft. Lauderdale, Florida
  7. New York, New York
  8. Miami, Florida
  9. Tampa, Florida
  10. Phoenix, Arizona

Many travelers are also seeking warm weather and sandy beaches in Mexico and the Caribbean this holiday season. Cancun, Mexico; Punta Cana, Dominican Republic; Montego Bay, Jamaica; Los Cabos, Mexico; and Puerto Vallarta, Mexico, are the top five international destinations for the year-end holidays.

Copyright St. George News, LLC, 2019, all rights reserved.

Copyright St. George News, LLC, 2019, all rights reserved.

Free News Delivery by Email

Would you like to have the day's news stories delivered right to your inbox every evening? Enter your email below to start!