‘Tis the holiday season to traditionally spend with family and friends and this year Americans are traveling in record numbers. AAA forecasts 107.3 million Americans will take to planes, trains, automobiles and other modes of transportation during the year-end holiday period from Saturday, Dec. 23 through Monday, Jan. 1. This will be the highest year-end travel volume on record and a 3.1 percent increase in travel volume compared with last year. 2017 marks the ninth consecutive year of rising year-end holiday travel. Since 2005, total year-end holiday travel volume has grown by 21.6 million, an increase of more than 25 percent.
“More expensive gas prices are not swaying holiday revelers to stay home,” said Bill Sutherland, AAA senior vice president, Travel and Publishing. “In fact, across the board this year, travel has increased year-over-year for every major holiday weekend – Memorial Day, Independence Day, Thanksgiving – and we project the same for the year-end holiday period. We’ve seen the strong economy and growing consumer confidence fuel holiday travel all year long.”
For the 97.4 million Americans traveling by automobile, INRIX, a global transportation analytics company, in collaboration with AAA, predicts travel times during the holiday week could be as much as three times longer than the normal trip.
Holiday Headache Hotspots
Based on historical and recent travel trends, INRIX expects drivers will experience the greatest amount of congestion before the holiday week – on Wednesday, Dec. 20 and Thursday, Dec. 21 – in the late afternoon as commuters leave work early and mix with holiday travelers. For example, drivers in New York City could see travel times peak at three times a normal trip between 3:30 and 5:30pm.
“With record-level travelers hitting the road this holiday, drivers must be prepared for delays in major metros,” says Dr. Graham Cookson, chief economist & head of research at INRIX. “Our advice to drivers is to avoid peak times altogether or consider alternative routes.”
Worst Days/Times to Travel
|Metro Area||Worst Day for Travel||Worst Time for Travel||Delay Multiplier|
|New York, NY||Wednesday, Dec. 20||3:30 – 5:30 PM||3x|
|Los Angeles, CA||Wednesday, Dec. 20||3:30 – 6:00 PM||2.5x|
|Washington, DC||Thursday, Dec. 21||3:00 – 6:00 PM||2.5x|
|San Francisco, CA||Wednesday, Dec. 20||3:00 – 5:30 PM||2x|
|Chicago, IL||Thursday, Dec. 21||4:00 – 6:00 PM||2x|
|Boston, MA||Thursday, Dec. 21||2:30 – 4:30 PM||2x|
|Seattle, WA||Wednesday, Dec. 20||4:00 – 6:00 PM||2x|
|Atlanta, GA||Thursday, Dec. 21||4:30 – 6:30 PM||1.5x|
|Houston, TX||Wednesday, Dec. 20||5:30 – 7:30 PM||1.5x|
|Detroit, MI||Thursday, Dec. 21||3:00 – 5:30 PM||1.5x|
Travel Tip: Try to avoid traveling through major cities during peak travel times. The best times to leave are typically early morning or after the morning commute because the roads should be less crowded and you will have more time to get to your destination safely. If your schedule permits, traveling on the holiday itself often results in fewer cars on the road.