FRESNO, Calif. (KSEE/KGPE) — It is shaping up to be another record-breaking holiday travel season, according to experts at AAA.
The organization estimates as many as 115.6 million people will hit the road or fly the friendly skies in order to reach family or friends ahead of Christmas, Hanukkah and other winter holidays.
The increased travel period runs from Saturday through New Year’s Day, AAA says.
And it is expected to be busier than ever.
AAA says it is the largest amount of Americans to travel in nearly 20 years since the organization began tracking in 2000 and represents a 3.9% increase over last year, or 4.3 million more people packing up their sleighs for a holiday getaway.
For the 104.8 million Americans traveling by automobile, INRIX, in collaboration with AAA, predicts only marginal delays throughout the holiday week, with kids out of school and many Americans taking extended time off for the holidays.
“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,” said Trevor Reed, a transportation analyst at INRIX.
The worst days to travel are immediately after Christmas as people try to rush back home.
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%.
- 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 Central Valley residents traveling to, from or through Los Angeles, the worst anticipated drive time is on Dec. 26 from 4:25 to 6:25 p.m., according to AAA.
Valley travelers driving to, from or through San Francisco can also anticipate Dec. 26 as having the worst drive time from 4 to 6 p.m.
Airports meanwhile will be busy across the country between Dec. 21 to 23, with steep flight prices Dec. 26.
AAA says travelers, on average, pay ticket prices between $593 and $639 during the busy travel period, with Christmas Eve being the best day to travel, with the lowest average price per ticket, at $537, and the fewest crowds of the holiday week.
Many travelers opt to fly after Christmas leading up to New Year’s and pay a premium — Dec. 26 has the highest average ticket price of the week at $692.
AAA credits a strong economy for the increase in travel, but it also says freeways and airport terminals have been getting steadily more crowded for years.
“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 of 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.”