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AAA: 115 Million Americans Expected to Travel over Christmas, New Year’s

Second highest year-end holiday travel forecast since AAA began tracking in 2000

christmas tree car ornament
Photo courtesy of Grotos/Flickr Creative Commons

AAA projects 115.2 million travelers will head 50 miles or more from home over the 10-day year-end holiday travel period*. This year’s total number of travelers is a 2.2% increase over last year and the second highest year-end travel forecast since AAA began tracking travel in 2000. 2019 remains the busiest Christmas and New Year’s travel period on record, with 119 million travelers.

“This year’s holiday forecast is a perfect example of the strong travel trends we’ve been seeing all year,” said Bevi Powell, senior vice president, AAA East Central. “More Americans are investing in travel, so they can make those special memories with loved ones and experience new places.”

AAA expects nearly 104 million people will drive to their holiday destinations, an increase of 1.8% compared to 2022. This year’s projected number of drivers is the second highest on record since 2019, when 108 million drivers hit the road for the holidays. As 2023 ends, drivers can expect to pay about the same or less for a gallon of gas than they did last holiday season, when the national average on Christmas Day and New Year’s Day was $3.10 and $3.20, respectively.

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 lower than last year. According to AAA booking data, the average price for a roundtrip ticket to Orlando this holiday season is $613, down from $735 last year.

People traveling by other modes, like bus, train and cruise, are projected to surpass 2019. AAA expects more than 4 million Americans will take alternative transportation over Christmas and New Year’s compared to 3.66 million in 2022 and 3.89 million in 2019. Demand for cruises has skyrocketed post-pandemic, and the industry is preparing for the wave of bookings that traditionally happens at the start of the new year.

Best/Worst Times to Drive and Peak Congestion by Metro  

INRIX, a provider of transportation data and insights, says there will be several days of potentially bad traffic during the 10-day holiday period. Saturday, December 23 and Thursday, December 28 will be the most congested days on the road. INRIX also says Saturday, December 30, when many people will be heading home from their holiday destinations or traveling for New Year’s Eve, will see an increase in traffic compared to a normal Saturday. The best times to hit the road are before lunchtime or after 7p.m.

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


Best and Worst Times to Travel by Car


Worst Travel Time

Best Travel Time

Saturday, Dec 23

11 AM - 7:00 PM

Before 10 AM

Sunday, Dec 24

Minimal Traffic Impact Expected

Monday, Dec 25

Minimal Traffic Impact Expected

Tuesday, Dec 26

1 - 5 PM

Before Noon

Wednesday, Dec 27

1 - 7 PM

Before Noon

Thursday, Dec 28

2 - 8 PM

Before Noon

Friday, Dec 29

2 - 8 PM

Before Noon

Saturday, Dec 30

5 -  PM

Before Noon

Sunday, Dec 31

Minimal Traffic Impact Expected

Monday, Jan 01

Minimal Traffic Impact Expected


Top Destinations

This holiday season, many travelers are heading to warm-weather destinations like Florida and the Caribbean, tourist hotspots like New York and Las Vegas, and European cities like London and Rome. Here are the top domestic and international destinations based on AAA flight booking data:




Orlando, FL

London, England

Anaheim, CA

St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands

Chicago, IL


Charlotte, NC

Dublin, Ireland

Miami, FL

Toronto, Ontario, Canada

Atlanta, GA

Rome, Italy

Las Vegas, NV

Reykjavík, Iceland 

New York, NY

San Juan, Puerto Rico

Phoenix, AZ

Montego Bay, Jamaica

Houston, TX

Costa Rica


Airport Parking Tips

With a record number of air travelers expected this holiday season, AAA recommends travelers plan ahead and take precautions when driving to the airport and parking their vehicles.

  • Reserve a parking spot ahead of time to save time and money. 
  • Choose a well-lit, secure garage. 
  • On-site garages tend to be more expensive but offer convenience and peace of mind given their proximity to the terminals. 
  • If choosing off-site parking, look for reputable businesses like The Parking Spot, which is securely fenced and offers a shuttle to the airport (AAA members get a discount). 
  • Opt for covered parking if you live in an area expecting inclement weather.
  • Remove valuables from your vehicle. 
  • Lock doors and roll up windows.
  • Take a photo of your spot to remember where you parked.
  • Keep your ticket – and receipt; if you prepaid – convenient to show when exiting.

AAA to rescue more than 930,000 at the roadside
The 104 million Americans planning to drive over the holidays need to be prepared for slowdowns and breakdowns. AAA expects to respond to more than 930,000 calls for help. Before a trip, vehicles should be inspected to check key components like the battery, fuel system, tires, brakes and fluid levels to avoid an unnecessary breakdown. It’s important to do this as early as possible in case there is an issue that needs to be fixed.

Holiday Forecast Methodology  

Travel Forecast 

In cooperation with AAA, S&P Global Market Intelligence developed a unique methodology to forecast actual domestic travel volumes. The economic variables used to forecast travel for the current holiday are leveraged from S&P Global Market Intelligence’s proprietary databases. These data include macroeconomic drivers such as employment, output, household net worth, asset prices, including stock indices, interest rates, housing-market indicators and variables related to travel and tourism, including gasoline prices, airline travel, and hotel stays. AAA and S&P Global Market Intelligence have quantified holiday travel volumes going back to 2000. 

Historical travel-volume estimates come from DK SHIFFLET’s TRAVEL PERFORMANCE/MonitorSM. The PERFORMANCE/MonitorSM is a comprehensive study measuring the travel behavior of U.S. residents. DK SHIFFLET contacts more than 50,000 U.S. households each month to obtain detailed travel data, resulting in the unique ability to estimate visitor volume and spending, identify trends and forecast U.S. travel behavior, all after the trips have been taken.

The travel forecast is reported in-person trips. AAA and SPGMI forecast the total U.S. holiday-travel volume and expected mode of transportation. The travel forecast presented in this report was prepared the week of October 9, 2023.

*Year-End Holiday Travel Period 

For the purposes of this forecast, the year-end holiday-travel period is defined as the 10-day period from Saturday, December 23, 2023 to Monday, January 1, 2024. 

About S&P Global 
S&P Global (NYSE: SPGI) provides essential intelligence. We enable governments, businesses and individuals with the right data, expertise and connected technology, so they can make decisions with conviction. From helping our customers assess new investments to guiding them through ESG and energy transition across supply chains, we unlock new opportunities, solve challenges and accelerate progress for the world. We are widely sought after by many of the world’s leading organizations to provide credit ratings, benchmarks, analytics and workflow solutions in the global capital, commodity and automotive markets. With every one of our offerings, we help the world’s leading organizations plan today for tomorrow. For more information, visit

About DKSA 

DK SHIFFLET boasts the industry’s most complete database on U.S. resident travel, both in the U.S. and worldwide. Data is collected monthly from a U.S. representative sample, adding more than 60,000 traveling households annually, and is used daily by leading travel organizations and their strategic-planning groups. DK SHIFFLET is an MMGY Global company. 

About INRIX   

Founded in 2004, INRIX pioneered intelligent-mobility solutions by transforming big data from connected devices and vehicles into mobility insights. This revolutionary approach enabled INRIX to become one of the leading providers of data and analytics into how people move. By empowering cities, businesses and people with valuable insights, INRIX is helping to make the world smarter, safer and greener. With partners and solutions spanning across the entire mobility ecosystem, INRIX is uniquely positioned at the intersection of technology and transportation – whether it’s keeping road users safe, improving traffic-signal timing to reduce delay and greenhouse gases, optimizing last-mile delivery, or helping uncover market insights. Learn more at 


AAA East Central is a not-for-profit association with 69 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.



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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.