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AAA predicts record numbers of Americans will travel this holiday season

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STATEN ISLAND, N.Y. — As Americans continue to rebound from the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, airports and roads will be among the busiest on record this holiday season, according to AAA, which projects that 115.2 million Americans will travel more than 50 miles this year.

Overall, the number of travelers will be up 2.2% over last year and the second highest since 2000, when AAA began tracking holiday travel. It will trail only 2019 in terms of volume, the not-for-profit auto club projected.

Nearly 104 million people will drive to their holiday destination, according to AAA’s recent prediction. That would be an increase of 1.8% compared to 2022, and the second highest on record, behind only 2019.

Drivers can expect lower gas prices than last year, too. The national average for a gallon of gasoline is $3.15 per gallon. The national average last year was $3.29.

Airports are expected to be the absolute busiest they’ve ever been over the year-end holiday travel period, as AAA projected 7.5 million will travel by air this holiday season, surpassing 2019′s record of 7.3 million passengers. And average ticket prices are slightly lower than last year, AAA reported.

The number of travelers taking some other mode of transportation, such as bus, train, or cruise, is also expected to surpass 2019. Slightly more than 4 million Americans are expected to travel by one of these modes, compared to 3.66 million last year and 3.89 million in 2019.

“This forecast shows the year-end holidays as the busiest travel period of the year,” said Robert Sinclair, Jr. of AAA Northeast. “The rebound from COVID lockdowns continues, as more Americans are investing in domestic and international travel.”

Saturday, Dec.23, and Thursday, Dec. 28, will be the busiest days on the road, according to INRIX, a provider of anonymous vehicle transportation data. Saturday, Dec. 30, will also see an increase in traffic compared to a normal Saturday, as some folks return from holiday getaways. The best times to hit the road in general are before lunchtime or after 7 p.m., AAA stated.

With a record number of air passengers expected this holiday season, AAA recommended that travelers plan and take precautions when driving to the airport and parking their vehicle.

Drivers should reserve a spot ahead of time, keeping in mind that on-site garages tend to be more expensive. Choose a covered parking garage if inclement weather is expected. Remove valuables from the vehicle, lock doors and roll up windows. Take a picture of the location to assist in recalling where the vehicle is parked, and hold on to the receipt.

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