’Tis the season to travel, and the American Automobile Association (AAA) estimates 112.7 million people will journey 50 miles or more away from home from December 23 to January 2. That’s an increase of 3.6 million people over last year and closing in on pre-pandemic numbers. 2022 is expected to be the third busiest year for holiday travel since AAA began tracking in 2000.
“This year, travel time will be extended due to Christmas Day and New Year’s Day falling on Sundays,” says Paula Twidale, AAA’s Senior Vice President of Travel. “With hybrid work schedules, we are seeing more people take long weekends to travel because they can work remotely at their destination and be more flexible with the days they depart and return.”
Nearly 102 million Americans will drive to their holiday destinations. Despite roller-coaster gas prices in 2022, this holiday season will see an additional 2 million drivers compared to 2021. Travel by car this year is on par with 2018 but shy of 2019 when 108 million Americans drove out of town for the holidays, the highest year on record.
Air travel will see a 14% increase over last year, with nearly 7.2 million Americans expected to fly. Flights and airports will be packed this holiday season, reminiscent of pre-pandemic days. Demand for flights has surged despite higher airline ticket prices. AAA expects the number of people taking holiday flights this year will come close to matching 2019 when 7.3 million Americans traveled by air.
“If the distance is not reasonable to drive, more people are taking to the air to maximize the time spent at their destination,” Twidale adds. “Conversely, if the travel distances are reasonable and more than one or two people in the household are taking the trip, it may be more cost-effective to drive rather than buy multiple air tickets, rent a car, and spend too much money before the fun even begins.”
Other modes of transportation are also rebounding in a big way. AAA estimates travel by bus, rail, and cruise ship will rise to 3.6 million this holiday season, a 23% increase from last year and nearly 94% of 2019’s volume.
Year-End Holiday Travel Period
For purposes of this forecast, the year-end holiday travel period is defined as the 11-day period from Friday, December 23 to Monday, January 2. This period is the same length as the 2021/2022 year-end travel period.
The year-end holiday travel period can range from 10 to 13 days, depending on which day of the week Christmas Day and New Year’s Day fall. All the year-end holiday periods contain two weekends.
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 62 million members across North America, including 56 million in the United States. To learn more about all AAA has to offer or to become a member, visit AAA.com