More Texans than ever – 9.3 million – will travel this holiday season, from Sunday, Dec. 21 through Wednesday, Jan. 1. That is the most in nearly 20 years since AAA Texas began tracking in 2000 and represents an increase of 3.8% over last year. More than 8.6 million of those holiday travelers will drive to their destinations.
“Texans are expected to travel in record numbers to wrap up 2019,” said Kent Livesay, Vice President & General Manager, AAA Texas. “The Lone Star State continues to enjoy a strong economy and some of the least expensive gas prices in the country. That combination is giving confidence to people who wish to spend their dollars on travel.”
This projected record-setting trend will be seen throughout the country as 115.6 million will travel at the end 2019. That represents an increase of 3.9% over last year, or 4.3 million more people packing up their sleighs for a holiday getaway. Driving will be the most popular method with 104 million of those holiday travelers expected to hit the road to reach their destinations.
INRIX, a global transportation analytics company, expects delays to be the worst on Thursday, Dec. 26, with afternoon delays reaching nearly double congestion-free drive times in major U.S. cities. Houston roadways are projected to have some of the most congested corridors in the country, specifically I-69 Westbound. INRIX predicts I-69 West will see more than seven times the normal delays on Thursday, Dec. 26 just before 5 PM.
By the Numbers: 2019 End of the Year Holiday Travel Forecas
|Mode of travel||People||Change from 2018|
|Other Travel (Trains, Buses)||254,000||+1.4%|
|Texas Total Travel Volume||9.3 million||+3.8%|
|Mode of travel||People||Change from 2018|
|Air Travel||7 million||+4.9%|
|Other Travel (Trains, Buses)||3.8 million||+3.0%|
|National Total Travel Volume||115.6 million||+3.9%|
More Americans than ever on record will drive this holiday season
- Automobiles: 104.8 million Americans, the most on record, will drive to their holiday destinations. That means 3.9 million more people are expected on the roads compared to last year, for an increase of 3.9%.
- Planes: With 4.9% growth, air travel will see the biggest increase in travel volume during the year-end holidays, with 6.97 million Americans expected to fly – the most since 2003.
- Trains, Buses and Cruise Ships: Travel by these other modes will reach 3.81 million, 3% more than last year.
Rushing home for the holidays
For the 104.8 million Americans traveling by automobile, INRIX, in collaboration with AAA, predicts only marginal delays throughout the holiday week. Nationally, drivers could experience double the travel times on Thursday and Friday afternoon, although New York City and Washington, D.C. could see triple the delays.
“With kids out of school and many Americans taking extended time off for the holidays, drivers will experience only incremental delays throughout the week. Although congestion will be lighter than normal, knowing when and where major delays will likely happen will help save time and reduce stress this holiday season,” says Trevor Reed, a transportation analyst at INRIX.
|City||Worst Day to Travel||Peak congestion period||Delay Multiplier|
|Atlanta||Thursday, Dec. 26||4:30 – 6:30 PM||1.3x|
|Boston||Friday, Dec. 27||4:00 – 6:00 PM||1.5x|
|Chicago||Thursday, Dec. 26||4:45 – 6:45 PM||1.3x|
|Detroit||Thursday, Dec. 26||4:30 – 6:30 PM||1.4x|
|Houston||Friday, Dec. 27||4:30 – 6:30 PM||1.8x|
|Los Angeles||Thursday, Dec. 26||4:25 – 6:25 PM||1.6x|
|New York||Thursday, Dec. 26||4:15 – 6:15 PM||2.7x|
|San Francisco||Thursday, Dec. 26||4:00 – 6:00 PM||2.0x|
|Seattle||Friday, Dec. 27||4:15 – 6:15 PM||1.2x|
|Washington, D.C.||Thursday, Dec. 26||4:00 – 6:00 PM||3.0x|
The holidays can be a stressful time; AAA encourages drivers to maintain a cool head and focus on reaching their destination safely. AAA offers these tips to help prevent road rage:
- Do Not Offend: Never cause another driver to change their speed or direction. That means not forcing another driver to use their brakes or turn the steering wheel in response to something you have done.
- Be Tolerant and Forgiving: The other driver may just be having a really bad day. Assume that it is not personal.
- Do Not Respond: Avoid eye contact, don’t make gestures, maintain space around your vehicle and contact 9-1-1 if needed.
Gas prices are expected to drop in time for the holidays, members can save even more with Shell
Gas prices steadily declined in November, paving the way for even cheaper prices for the year-end holidays. AAA expects most motorists to see gas prices drop before the new year, but will likely be slightly more expensive than last December’s national gas price average of $2.37.
As an added bonus for holiday road trippers, AAA members who register in the Fuel Rewards at Shell program through Dec. 31, 2019 can receive an additional 25 cents per gallon discount on their first fill up after registering as a new Fuel Rewards member, on top of the everyday 5-cent discount (30 cents total).
AAA to rescue more than 37,000 at the roadside in Texas
More than 37,000 motorists will call AAA Texas for assistance at the roadside this holiday season; 853,000 will seek help on a national scale. Dead batteries, flat tires and lockouts will be the leading reasons AAA members will experience car trouble. AAA recommends motorists take their vehicles to a trusted repair facility to perform any needed maintenance before heading out on a road trip. And remember to slow down and move over for stopped emergency vehicles at the roadside. It’s the law in all 50 states.
Prepare for busy airports Dec. 21-23, steep flight prices Dec. 26
A recent analysis of AAA’s flight booking data revealed that most travelers depart two to four days prior to the Christmas holiday, Dec. 21-23, with the 22nd being the single busiest air travel day of the holiday week. These travelers, on average, pay ticket prices between $593 and $639. Christmas Eve is the best day to travel, with the lowest average price per ticket ($527) and the fewest crowds of the holiday week. Many travelers opt to fly after the Christmas holiday leading up to New Year’s, and they pay a premium to do so. Dec. 26 has the highest average ticket price of the week at $692.