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Record-Breaking 107 Million Americans to Celebrate Holidays Away from Home

Motorists can expect peak congestion on Dec. 20 and 21 as commuters mix with holiday travelers

Car packed
Photo copyright Jessica Spengler

‘Tis the season to traditionally spend time 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.  

“It’s exciting to anticipate a strong holiday travel season and to know that more people will be enjoying time with family and friends,” said Jim Lehman, President of AAA East Central.  “Travelers should plan to arrive at the airport early and monitor traffic and weather along their route so that their trip is stress free.”

East North Central* Year-End Holiday Travel Forecast

  • Year-End travelers will total 17.7 million, an increase of 3.1% from the 17.1 million in 2016.
  • 16.1 million (91%) will travel by automobile, up 3.1% from last year’s number of 15.69 million.
  • 961,000 will fly to their destinations, up 3.9% from last year’s number of 925,000. 

*East North Central region includes IL, IN, OH, MI, and WI.  

Holiday Headache Hotspots
For the 97.4 million Americans finishing the year with a roadtrip, 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.

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. 

AAA advises that drivers 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 a motorists schedule permits, traveling on the holiday itself often results in fewer cars on the road.

Pump prices projected to decrease
The 90 percent of holiday travelers choosing to drive will find the most expensive year-end gas prices since 2014.  This December’s national average price is $2.47 (Dec. 1-13), which is 28 cents more than last December.  The good news is that AAA does expect the average to drop by year-end, saving motorists a few pennies at the pump.

Hotel rates trend cheaper, car rentals increase year-over-year
Travelers will find savings this year at AAA Two and Three Diamond Rated hotels.  On average, a Three Diamond hotel nightly rate is $156, a two percent year-over-year decrease.  The Two Diamond nightly average rate is $121, a five percent decrease from last year.

Similar to Thanksgiving, car rental rates are more expensive on the year.  At $74, the daily car rental rate increased 11 percent. This sets a new five-year record high rate for year-end holiday travel. The increase is on par with the rate increases seen at Thanksgiving.

Top 10 Year-End Holiday Travel Destinations
For a second year, Orlando, Florida, and Anaheim, California, top this year’s top 10 holiday destinations based on bookings. Warmer weather destinations reign supreme in winter months with Cancun, Kahului (Maui) and Montego Bay gaining in popularity as holiday spots compared with last year.

AAA East Central is a not-for-profit association with 81 local offices in Kentucky, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania and West Virginia serving 2.7 million members.  News releases are available at  Follow us on Twitter and Facebook.

For More Information, Contact:
Jim Garrity, Public & Community Relations Manager
Desk: 412-365-7274 / Cell: 412-905-9021 / Email:


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AAA East Central is a member club affiliated with the American Automobile Association (AAA) national federation and serves members in Kentucky, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania and West Virginia.