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Forecast: 115 Million Americans Expected to Travel For Year End

Second highest year-end holiday travel forecast on record.

DENVER (Dec. 11, 2023) - AAA projects 115.2 million travelers will head 50 miles or more from home over the 10-day year-end travel period from Saturday, Dec. 23 through Monday, Jan. 1. That marks a 2.2% increase over last year and the second-highest year-end travel forecast on record - coming in just shy of 2019's record 119 million travelers. 

"If 2023 has made anything clear, it's that Americans see travel as a right, not a privilege," said Skyler McKinley, regional director of public affairs for AAA. “Despite inflation, rising interest rates, global unrest and recessionary fears, Americans have decided that travel holds a non-negotiable place in their budgets, and that will persist into the new year. Expect crowds on the roads and at airports - so you must finalize your travel plans ASAP, anticipate longer lines, and build in extra time to get to your destination.”

forecastbreakdownAuto Travel
AAA expects nearly 104 million people will drive to their holiday destinations, a jump of 1.8% over 2022. That's the second highest on record after 2019, when 108 million drivers hit the road for the holidays. 

Gas Prices
At a national level, gas prices have fallen every week for 12 weeks straight - or three months. At $3.15 as of Dec. 10, the national average is down from $3.39 at this point last month and sits approximately $0.15 below this time last year.

Colorado, meanwhile, has some of the fastest-falling gas prices in the country. At $2.85, prices are down $0.50 on the month and nearly $0.20 from this point last year. The average pump price is highest in Glenwood Springs, at $3.47 per gallon, and lowest in Greeley, at $2.58. With lackluster demand and faltering crude oil, pump prices are expected to continue to decline into early 2024.

Air Travel
Airports are expected to be the busiest they've ever been over the year-end travel period. AAA projects 7.5 million air travelers this holiday season, surpassing 2019's record of 7.3 million passengers. Average ticket prices have fallen slightly, year over year: Per AAA booking data, the average price for a roundtrip ticket to Orlando this holiday season is $613, down from $735 last year.

“AAA recommends booking flights as early as possible to ensure the best combination of price and availability,” said Debbie Haas, vice president of travel for AAA. “Those waiting until the last minute could catch a discount but may have fewer options in terms of non-stop flights and seat availability. Whenever you book, it’s important to consider travel insurance.”

“Seemingly every year around this time we hear about winter weather that causes widespread cancellations or delays,” Haas continued. “That’s another reason why we encourage travelers to get travel insurance, which offers protection for covered expenses associated with flight cancellations, lost luggage, and on flights with delays of as little as three hours.”

Other Travel
The number of people traveling by other modes, like bus, train, and cruise, is projected to surpass 2019. AAA expects more than 4 million Americans will take alternative transportation over Christmas and New Year’s compared to 3.66 million in 2022 and 3.89 million in 2019. Demand for cruises has skyrocketed post-pandemic, and the 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,” Haas said. “That’s when cruise lines offer some of the best deals, and AAA members get exclusive benefits in addition to those discounts.”

INRIX, a provider of transportation data and insights, says there will be several days of potentially bad traffic during the 10-day holiday period. Saturday, December 23, and Thursday, December 28, will be the most congested days on the road. INRIX also says Saturday, December 30, when many people will be heading back home from their holiday destinations or traveling for New Year’s Eve, will see an increase in traffic compared to a normal Saturday.

The best times to hit the road are before lunchtime or after 7pm.

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

In Colorado, peak congestion is expected on the Front Range on southbound I-25 from Fort Collins to Denver on Friday, Dec. 29 at 2pm - with an estimated travel time of 1 hour, 40 minutes (or 67% above typical). 

Top Destinations
This holiday season, many travelers are heading to warm weather destinations such as Florida and the Caribbean, tourist hotspots such as New York and Las Vegas, and European cities such as London and Rome. Here are the top domestic and international destinations based on AAA flight booking data.

1) Orlando, FL
2) Anaheim, CA
3) Chicago, IL
4) Charlotte, NC
5) Miami, FL
6) Atlanta, GA
7) Las Vegas, NV
8) New York, NY
9) Phoenix, AZ
10) Houston, TX

International/U.S. Territories
1) London, England
2) St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands
3) Aruba
4) Dublin, Ireland
5) Toronto, Ontario, Canada
6) Rome, Italy
7) Reykjavík, Iceland
8) San Juan, Puerto Rico
9) Montego Bay, Jamaica
10) Costa Rica

Safety First
Approximately 950,000 drivers will call for AAA roadside assistance during the year-end travel period, with more than 10,000 of those in Colorado alone. 

The most common calls will relate to dead batteries, flat tires, and lockouts. AAA encourages drivers to get a full vehicle inspection before they hit the road to check everything out from the tires up - including oil, the air filter, and wiper blades. We can help you find a mechanic you can trust at

Ensure your vehicle has an emergency kit. This should include jumper cables, a first-aid kit, car/portable phone chargers, a flashlight with extra batteries, and drinking water and snacks for everyone in the car. Don't forget an extra set of warm clothes, gloves, hats, and blankets. 

A mix of winter weather, an increase in impaired drivers, and the influx of auto travelers will make the holidays especially dangerous for those stuck at the roadside. AAA reminds motorists to slow down and move over for first responders and tow trucks, as is required by Colorado law. New this year: These protections are extended, by law, to every driver in any vehicle in the breakdown lane with its hazard lights flashing. 

"Everybody on Colorado's roadways deserves to make it home for the holidays," McKinley said. "Saving a life is as easy as slowing down and moving over whenever you see any flashing hazard lights at the roadside."

Winter Wise Press Conference
CDOT, the Colorado State Patrol, the I-70 Coalition and AAA will gather this week to deliver a collective caution to Colorado drivers ahead of the upcoming holiday travel rush: Winter is here, and drivers must prepare accordingly for winter road conditions.

Date/Time: Tuesday, Dec. 12, 2023, 10:30 a.m.- Noon

Location: CDOT Golden Maintenance Shed
17101 West Colfax, Golden, CO 80401

Holiday Forecast Methodology
In cooperation with AAA, S&P Global Market Intelligence developed a unique methodology to forecast actual domestic travel volumes. The economic variables used to forecast travel for the current holiday are leveraged from S&P Global Market Intelligence’s proprietary databases. These data include macroeconomic drivers such as employment, output, household net worth, asset prices, including stock indices, interest rates, housing market indicators, and variables related to travel and tourism, including gasoline prices, airline travel, and hotel stays. AAA and S&P Global Market Intelligence have quantified holiday travel volumes going back to 2000.

Historical travel volume estimates come from DK SHIFFLET’s TRAVEL PERFORMANCE/MonitorSM. The PERFORMANCE/MonitorSM is a comprehensive study measuring the travel behavior of U.S. residents. DK SHIFFLET contacts over 50,000 U.S. households each month to obtain detailed travel data, resulting in the unique ability to estimate visitor volume and spending, identify trends, and forecast U.S. travel behavior, all after the trips have been taken.

The travel forecast is reported in person-trips. In particular, AAA and SPGMI forecast the total U.S. holiday travel volume and expected mode of transportation. The travel forecast presented in this report was prepared the week of October 9, 2023.

About AAA - The Auto Club Group

The Auto Club Group (ACG) is the second largest AAA club in North America with more than 13 million members across 14 U.S. states, the province of Quebec and two U.S. territories. ACG and its affiliates provide members with roadside assistance, insurance products, banking and financial services, travel offerings and more. ACG belongs to the national AAA federation with more than 64 million members in the United States and Canada. AAA’s mission is to protect and advance freedom of mobility and improve traffic safety. For more information, get the AAA Mobile app, visit, and follow us on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn.