11
December
2023
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15:23 PM
America/Chicago

Regional Holiday Travel Expected to Increase 1.3 Percent

Nationally, 115 Million Americans Expected to Travel over Christmas, New Year’s

AAA projects 115.2 million travelers will head 50 miles or more from home over this year’s 10-day year-end holiday travel period.

This year’s total number of travelers is a 2.2% increase over last year and the second highest year-end travel forecast since 2000 when AAA began tracking holiday travel. 2019 remains the busiest Christmas and New Year’s travel period on record, with 119 million travelers.

In the West North Central region, which includes Minnesota, North Dakota, Iowa, South Dakota and three other states, the increase in travelers is expected to be 1.3 percent. The largest increase in travelers from the region will be in other modes of transportation, such as train, bus or cruise ship. Air travel is expected to increase by 6.1 percent while auto travel is expected to increase less than 1 percent.

For the purposes of this forecast, the year-end holiday travel period is defined as Saturday, December 23, 2023, to Monday, January 1, 2024.

“AAA has seen steady year-over-year growth in travel demand, culminating with what is expected to be the busiest year-end holiday travel season on record in Florida, and the second-busiest nationwide,” said Debbie Haas, Vice President of Travel for AAA – The Auto Club Group. “Despite various inflationary pressures, Americans are still willing to budget for travel. With a record number of travelers, the roads, airports and cruise lines will be more crowded than normal. So finalize your travel plans now, anticipate longer lines, and give yourself extra time to get to your destination.”

AAA expects nearly 104 million people will drive to their holiday destinations, an increase of 1.8% compared to 2022. This year’s projected number of drivers is the second highest on record after 2019, when 108 million drivers hit the road for the holidays.

As 2023 comes to a close, drivers can expect to pay about the same or less for a gallon of gas than they did last holiday season, when the national average on Christmas Day was $3.10, while state averages in Minnesota, North Dakota, Iowa and South Dakota were $2.95, $2.99, $2.86 and $3.05, respectively.

Airports are expected to be the busiest they’ve ever been over the Christmas and New Year’s travel period. AAA projects 7.5 million air travelers this holiday season, surpassing 2019’s record of 7.3 million passengers. Average ticket prices are slightly lower than last year.

“AAA recommends booking flights as early as possible to ensure the best combination of price and availability,” Haas said. “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.”

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.”

DRIVE TIMES

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 7p.m.

“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.”

TOP DESTINATIONS

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

Domestic
  Orlando, FL 
  Anaheim, CA 
  Chicago, IL 
  Charlotte, NC 
  Miami, FL 
  Atlanta, GA 
  Las Vegas, NV 
  New York, NY 
  Phoenix, AZ 
  Houston, TX 

International/U.S. Territories
  London, England 
  St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands 
  Aruba 
  Dublin, Ireland 
  Toronto, Ontario, Canada 
  Rome, Italy 
  Reykjavík, Iceland 
  San Juan, Puerto Rico 
  Montego Bay, Jamaica 
  Costa Rica 

FORECAST METHODOLOGY 

Travel Forecast 

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.

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About AAA 

Started in 1902 by automotive enthusiasts who wanted to chart a path for better roads in America and advocate for safe mobility, AAA has transformed into one of North America’s largest membership organizations. Today, AAA provides roadside assistance, travel, discounts, financial and insurance services to enhance the life journey of 64 million members across North America, including 57 million in the United States. To learn more about all AAA has to offer or to become a member, visit AAA.com. 

About S&P Global 
S&P Global (NYSE: SPGI) provides essential intelligence. We enable governments, businesses, and individuals with the right data, expertise, and connected technology so that they can make decisions with conviction. From helping our customers assess new investments to guiding them through ESG and energy transition across supply chains, we unlock new opportunities, solve challenges, and accelerate progress for the world. We are widely sought after by many of the world’s leading organizations to provide credit ratings, benchmarks, analytics, and workflow solutions in the global capital, commodity, and automotive markets. With every one of our offerings, we help the world’s leading organizations plan for tomorrow today. For more information, visit www.spglobal.com

About DKSA 

DK SHIFFLET boasts the industry’s most complete database on U.S. resident travel both in the U.S. and worldwide. Data is collected monthly from a U.S. representative sample, adding over 60,000 traveling households annually, and is used daily by leading travel organizations and their strategic planning groups. DK SHIFFLET is an MMGY Global company. 

About INRIX   

Founded in 2004, INRIX pioneered intelligent mobility solutions by transforming big data from connected devices and vehicles into mobility insights. This revolutionary approach enabled INRIX to become one of the leading providers of data and analytics into how people move. By empowering cities, businesses, and people with valuable insights, INRIX is helping to make the world smarter, safer, and greener. With partners and solutions spanning across the entire mobility ecosystem, INRIX is uniquely positioned at the intersection of technology and transportation – whether it’s keeping road users safe, improving traffic signal timing to reduce delay and greenhouse gasses, optimizing last mile delivery, or helping uncover market insights. Learn more at INRIX.com. 

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 AAA.com, and follow us on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn.

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 AAA.com, and follow us on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn.