More Americans than ever on record – 115.6 million – will travel this holiday season, from Saturday, Dec. 21, through Wednesday, Jan. 1, with a “perfect storm” of holidays occurring in a relatively short time frame.
Here's what the week looks like: Hanukkah starts the evening of Dec. 22 (a Sunday) and ends the day before New Year’s Eve on Dec. 30. That overlaps with Christmas on Dec. 25, and Kwanzaa on Dec. 26 and running through Jan. 1 — aka New Year’s Day.
If that weren't enough to clog up our roadways, it's too early to tell what impact, if any, winter storms will have a travel.
As it stands, the projected number of travelers is the most in nearly 20 years since AAA began tracking in 2000, and represents an increase of 3.9 percent over last year, or 4.3 million more people packing up their sleighs for a holiday getaway.
More than 104 million of those holiday travelers will drive to their destinations and, INRIX, a global transportation analytics company, expects delays to be the worst on Thursday, Dec. 26, with afternoon delays reaching nearly double congestion-free drive times in major U.S. cities (see chart below for some specific projections).
“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,” said Paula Twidale, vice president, AAA Travel. “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.”
More Americans than ever on record will drive 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 percent.
- Planes: With 4.9 percent 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 percent more than last year.
Rushing home for the holidays
INRIX, in collaboration with AAA, projects that drivers across the U.S. could experience double the travel times on Thursday (Dec. 26) and Friday (Dec. 27) afternoons, although New York City and Washington, D.C. could see triple the delays.
“With kids out of school and many Americans taking extended time off for the holidays…knowing when and where major delays will likely happen will help save time and reduce stress this holiday season,” says Trevor Reed, a transportation analyst at INRIX.
|City||Worst Day to Travel||Peak congestion period||Delay Multiplier|
|Atlanta||Thursday, Dec. 26||4:30 – 6:30 PM||1.3x|
|Boston||Friday, Dec. 27||4:00 – 6:00 PM||1.5x|
|Chicago||Thursday, Dec. 26||4:45 – 6:45 PM||1.3x|
|Detroit||Thursday, Dec. 26||4:30 – 6:30 PM||1.4x|
|Houston||Friday, Dec. 27||4:30 – 6:30 PM||1.8x|
|Los Angeles||Thursday, Dec. 26||4:25 – 6:25 PM||1.6x|
|New York||Thursday, Dec. 26||4:15 – 6:15 PM||2.7x|
|San Francisco||Thursday, Dec. 26||4:00 – 6:00 PM||2.0x|
|Seattle||Friday, Dec. 27||4:15 – 6:15 PM||1.2x|
|Washington, D.C.||Thursday, Dec. 26||4:00 – 6:00 PM||3.0x|