GARDEN CITY, NY (December 14, 2021) More than 109 million people — an almost 34% increase from 2020 — will travel 50 miles or more as they hit the road, board airplanes or take other transportation between Dec. 23 and Jan. 2. The dramatic bounce-back — 27.7 million more people traveling than last year — will bring this year’s numbers to 92% of 2019 levels. Airlines will see a 184% increase.
“There is still tremendous pent-up demand for people to travel despite the surge of the Omicron variant of Covid,” said Robert Sinclair, Jr. of AAA Northeast. “Widespread use of vaccines has increased the confidence of travelers, but they still must be cautious as they set out for the busiest travel period of the year,” Sinclair added.
Protect yourself — and your trip
AAA urges anyone considering gathering or traveling for the holidays to consult the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) guidance. It’s essential to know requirements and recommendations based on your vaccination status, where you’re traveling from and your destination.
More than 100 million on the roads and 6 million in the skies
Road trips remain the top mode of travel during the holidays, with over 100 million planning to head to their destinations in cars despite gas costing $1.25 per gallon more than a year ago. More than 6 million people are expected to travel by air, while 3 million people are booking buses, trains and cruises.
Theme parks, beaches and Vegas are popular destinations
AAA booking data through October shows that domestically, theme-park-heavy destinations like Orlando, Florida, and Anaheim, California, top the list of popular travel spots. Las Vegas, New York City and several other Florida cities also rank high.
|Las Vegas, NV|
|New York, NY; Kahului, Maui, HI (tie)|
|Fort Lauderdale, FL|
|San Diego, CA|
Higher prices this holiday season
With so many planning to travel, AAA suggests booking flights, car rentals, accommodations and other activities as early as possible.
Air – A recent analysis of AAA’s flight booking data revealed that ticket prices for Christmas week are up 5% from last year, with the average lowest round-trip fare of $154 for major U.S. destinations.
Hotels – Mid-range hotel rates have increased 36% for AAA Approved hotels for Christmas travel, with an average nightly rate of $320.
Car Rentals – The average rate has increased 20% for Christmas travel, with the average lowest daily rate of $130. Rental car companies have been re-building their inventory following a shortage over the summer, but with the increased demand expected around this time of the year, it’s important to book as early as possible.
Plan for road trips
AAA expects to respond to as many as 1.3 million calls for help from broken down members. Vehicles that have been driven less during the pandemic should get an inspection to check key components like the battery, fuel system, tires, brakes, and fluid levels before making a trip.
Forecasted numbers may change
AAA notes that the actual number of travelers could fluctuate as we approach the holidays. Some people may decide to stay home if there is an increase in reported COVID-19 cases or because of concerns about the omicron variant, while others may note the progress in vaccinations and make last-minute decisions to travel.