HEATHROW, Fla., Dec. 15, 2021—Americans who had to cancel getaways and get-togethers last year because of the pandemic are making up for lost time this holiday season.
More than 109 million people—an almost 34 percent increase from 2020—will travel 50 miles or more as they hit the road, board airplanes or take other transportation out of town between Dec. 23 and Jan. 2, according to AAA.
That dramatic bounce-back—27.7 million more people traveling—will bring this year’s numbers to 92 percent of 2019 levels.
Airlines will see a 184 percent increase from last year.
“Americans who canceled their vacations in 2020 want to gather with family and friends for the holidays this year, although they will still be mindful of the pandemic and the new omicron variant,” said Paula Twidale, senior vice president of AAA Travel. “With vaccines widely available, conditions are much different and many people feel a greater level of comfort with travel.”
Road trips remain the top mode of travel during the holidays, with more than 100 million people planning to head to their destinations in cars despite gas costing $1.25 per gallon more than a year ago.
With more than 100 million Americans on the road during the holidays, travelers need to be prepared for slowdowns, according to AAA.
Although only marginal delays overall throughout the holiday week are expected, major metropolitan areas across the nation could see more than double the delays versus typical drive times.
According to AAA, the worst time to travel before Christmas is Dec. 23 and 24 between noon and 6 p.m., and between 1 and 7 p.m. the days after Christmas.
Worse roadway corridors include Atlanta’s Interstate 85 with peak congestion at 198 percent higher than normal for afternoon rush hour Jan. 2, 2022.
More than six million people are expected to travel by air, while three million are booking buses, trains and cruises.
AAA booking data through October shows that domestically, theme-park-heavy destinations like Orlando and Anaheim, Calif., top the list of popular travel spots. Las Vegas, New York City and several other Florida cities also rank high.
A recent analysis of AAA’s flight booking data revealed ticket prices for Christmas week are up 5 percent from last year, with the average lowest round-trip fare of $154 for major U.S. destinations.
For those flying around New Year’s, prices are up considerably more—27 percent with the average lowest fare at $182. Those wanting to book last-minute travel will find the best fares about two weeks before their travel date but should keep in mind availability may be limited.
AAA news release