WASHINGTON — AAA estimates 112.7 million people will journey 50 miles or more away from home this holiday season, from Dec. 23 to Jan. 2, the motor club said in its 2022 Year-End Holiday Travel Forecast. 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.
“This year, travel time will be extended due to Christmas Day and New Year’s Day falling on Sundays,” said Paula Twidale, senior vice president of travel for Washington-based AAA. “With hybrid work schedules, we are seeing more people take long weekends to travel because they can work remotely at their destination and be more flexible with the days they depart and return.”
Nearly 102 million Americans will drive to their holiday destinations. Despite “roller-coaster” gas prices in 2022, this holiday season will see an additional 2 million drivers compared to 2021, the motor club said. 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.
Meanwhile, the national average pump price plunged 14 cents since last week to $3.26 per gallon, six cents less than a year ago, AAA said on Dec. 12. There are now approximately 34 states with averages lower than last year, it said.
The nation’s top 10 largest weekly decreases: Montana (−26 cents), California (−25 cents), Alaska (−24 cents), Nevada (−21 cents), Oregon (−21 cents), Washington (−21 cents), Michigan (−21 cents), Arizona (−20 cents), Wyoming (−20 cents) and Indiana (−19 cents).
The nation’s top 10 least expensive markets: Texas ($2.69), Oklahoma ($2.70), Arkansas ($2.79), Missouri ($2.81), Louisiana ($2.84), Mississippi ($2.84), Tennessee ($2.84), Wisconsin ($2.85), Georgia ($2.87) and Kansas ($2.89).
Air travel will see a 14% increase over last year, with nearly 7.2 million Americans expected to fly. 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, it said.
“If the distance is not reasonable to drive, more people are taking to the air to maximize the time spent at their destination,” Twidale said. “Conversely, if the travel distances are reasonable and more than one or two people in the household are taking the trip, it may be more cost-effective to drive rather than buy multiple air tickets, rent a car and spend too much money before the fun even begins.”
Other modes of transportation are also rebounding in a big way. AAA estimates travel by bus, rail and cruise ship will rise to 3.6 million this holiday season, a 23% increase from last year and nearly 94% of 2019’s volume.
Members help make our journalism possible. Become a CSP member today and unlock exclusive benefits, including unlimited access to all of our content. Sign up here.