’Tis the season to travel, and AAA Texas estimates 8.9 million Texans will journey 50 miles or more away from home from December 23 to January 2. That’s up 3% from last year and about 7% fewer trips than 2019. On a national scale, AAA estimates 112.7 million people will travel 50 miles or more away from home. That’s an increase of 3.6 million people over last year and closing in on pre-pandemic numbers. 2022 is expected to be the third busiest year for holiday travel since AAA began tracking in 2000.
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“AAA Texas data shows year-end travel is surging, and trips are already being booked for 2023,” said AAA Texas Vice President and General Manager, Galen Grillo. “The rebound in travel during the second half of 2022 has helped create momentum for 2023, including for the upcoming ‘wave season’ from January through March, when cruise lines offer some of their best promotions.”
In Texas, around 8.3 million people will drive to their holiday destination and, across the country, nearly 102 million Americans will hit the road. Despite roller-coaster gas prices in 2022, this holiday season will see an additional 2 million American drivers compared to 2021. Travel by car this year is on par with 2018 but shy of 2019 when 108 million Americans drove out of town for the holidays, the highest year on record.
Air travel around the Lone Star State will see a 13% increase over last year, with nearly 377,000 Texans expected to fly. Across America, air travel will see a 14% increase over last year, with nearly 7.2 million Americans expected to fly. Flights and airports will be packed this holiday season, reminiscent of pre-pandemic days. Demand for flights has surged despite higher airline ticket prices. AAA expects the number of people taking holiday flights this year will come close to matching 2019 when 7.3 million Americans traveled by air.
Other modes of transportation are also rebounding in a big way. In Texas, 237,000 people will take a cruise, train or a bus, which is up 21% from last year. AAA estimates travel by bus, rail, and cruise ship will rise to 3.6 million this holiday season on a national scale, a 23% increase from last year and nearly 94% of 2019’s volume.
Busiest Corridors and Most/Least Traffic Timeframes
INRIX, a provider of transportation analytics and insights, expects the most congested days on the road to be Friday before Christmas, December 27 and 28, and on Monday, January 2, as travelers mix with commuters. In major metros, drivers could experience double the typical delays. Around America, drivers could see travel times up to 25% longer.
With pre-pandemic levels of travelers hitting the road this holiday, drivers must be prepared for delays in and around major metro areas, with Tuesday, December 27 expected to be the nation’s worst day to travel. The best advice is, if possible, to avoid traveling during peak commuting hours. If schedules allow, leave bright and early or after the afternoon commute. AAA Texas wants drivers to remember ‘Don’t Drive Intoxicated, Don’t Drive Intexticated.’ Also, AAA Texas reminds drivers to adhere to the state’s Move Over or Slow Down law to help protect emergency roadside responders, including tow truck operators.
Holiday Forecast Methodology: A Brief Overview
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/Monitor SM. The PERFORMANCE/Monitor SM is a comprehensive study measuring the travel behavior of U.S. residents. DK SHIFFLET contacts over 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. In particular, AAA and S&P Global Market Intelligence forecast the total U.S. holiday travel volume and expected mode of transportation. The travel forecast presented in this report was prepared for the week of November 15, 2022.
Year-End Holiday Travel Period
For purposes of this forecast, the year-end holiday travel period is defined as the 11-day period from Friday, December 23 to Monday, January 2. This period is the same length as the 2021/2022 year-end travel period.
The year-end holiday travel period can range from 10 to 13 days, depending on which day of the week Christmas Day and New Year’s Day fall. All the year-end holiday periods contain two weekends.
Started in 1902 by automotive enthusiasts who wanted to chart a path for better roads in America and advocate for safe mobility, AAA has transformed into one of North America’s largest membership organizations. Today, AAA provides roadside assistance, travel, discounts, financial and insurance services to enhance the life journey of 63 million members across North America, including over 56 million in the United States. AAA Texas branch offices throughout the state can be found by visiting www.AAA.com. Follow AAA Texas on Twitter: @AAATexas and Facebook: www.facebook.com/AAATexas.