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Near-Record Christmas And New Year’s Travel: When To Get Out Of Town

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ACROSS AMERICA — A near-record 115.2 million people are expected to travel 50 or more miles for Christmas and New Year’s, most of them by car, according to AAA 2023 holiday travel projections released Monday.

Some 104 million people are expected to drive — up 1.8 over 2022, and the second-highest end-of-the-year travel projection on record, AAA said.

Gas prices are similar to the 2022 holiday period, when the national average on Christmas Day and New Year’s Day was $3.10 and $3.20 a gallon, respectively. On Monday, the average gas price nationally is $3.15 a gallon.

Airports are expected to be the busiest they’ve ever been over the Christmas and New Year’s travel period. AAA projects 7.5 million air travelers this holiday season, surpassing 2019’s record of 7.3 million passengers. Average ticket prices are slightly lower than last year. Depending on the desired route and destination, some last-mintue deals may be available, AAA said.

AAA worked with transportation data insights company INRIX to determine the best and worst times to get out of town for the 10-day holiday period. Saturday, Dec. 23, and Thursday, Dec. 28, are expected to be the worst.

“Nationwide, drivers could see travel times up to 20% longer this holiday season. In major metros, especially in Denver, Minneapolis, and Washington, DC, drivers could experience nearly double the typical delays,” Bob Pishue, transportation analyst at INRIX, said in a news release. “Avoid peak commuting hours and use traffic apps, local DOT notifications, and 511 services to minimize holiday travel traffic frustrations.”

Overall, the best and worst times to travel are:

  • Best times: Before noon
  • Worst times: 2-8 p.m.

Saturday, Dec. 30

  • Best times: Before 10 a.m.
  • Worst times: 5-7 p.m.

Sunday, Dec. 31

  • Minimal traffic disruption is expected

Monday, Jan. 1

  • Minimal traffic disruption is expected

AAA and INRIX also figured peak congestion times for a select number of metropolitan areas. That information is available on the AAA website.

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