AAA expects a record 115.6 million Americans will travel this holiday season, an increase of 4.3 million people (3.9 percent) over last year.

The holiday period is considered to run from Saturday, Dec. 21 through Wednesday, Jan. 1. AAA began tracking holiday travel in 2000.

More than 104 million of the holiday travelers will drive to their destinations and INRIX, a global transportation analytics company, expects delays to be the longest on Thursday, Dec. 26, with afternoon delays reaching nearly double congestion-free drive times in major U.S. cities.

“Holiday cheer is at an all-time high this year, with unemployment at historically low levels, and noted improvements in both disposable income and household net worth,” said Paula Twidale, vice president, AAA Travel. “Travelers should be getting used to crowded highways and airports, as this marks the eighth straight year of new record-high travel volumes for the year-end holidays.”

Travel Modes

  • 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 with last year, an increase of 3.9 percent.
  • Planes: With 4.9-percent growth, air travel will see the biggest increase in travel volume during the year-end holidays. The 6.97 million Americans expected to fly is the most since 2003.
  • Trains, Buses and Cruise Ships: Travel by these other modes will reach 3.81 million, or 3 percent more than last year.

Cool Heads

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.

Warm Destinations

Theme parks, warm-weather locales, and the iconic holiday destination, New York City, top the list of 10 most popular destinations in the U.S. for the year-end holidays, based on advance AAA Travel bookings:

  1. Orlando, FL
  2. Anaheim, CA
  3. Honolulu, HI
  4. Kahului, Maui, HI
  5. Las Vegas, NV
  6. Ft. Lauderdale, FL
  7. New York, NY
  8. Miami, FL
  9. Tampa, FL
  10. Phoenix, AZ

Many travelers are also seeking warm weather and sandy beaches in Mexico and the Caribbean this holiday season. Cancun, Mexico; Punta Cana, Dominican Republic; Montego Bay, Jamaica; Los Cabos, Mexico; and Puerto Vallarta, Mexico, are AAA’s top five international destinations for the year-end holidays.

AAA’s travel experts remind travelers that it’s not too late to begin planning a winter getaway. Visit AAA.com/Travel for travel planning resources to book your trip today. If you don’t currently have a federally-required REAL ID, AAA suggests making a New Year’s resolution to obtain one. You may not be able to fly without one after Oct. 1, 2020.

Gas Prices

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 as a new Fuel Rewards member at Shell through Dec. 31, 2019, can receive an additional 25-cents per gallon discount on their first fill up on top of the everyday 5-cent discount (30 cents total).

Roadside Rescues

More than 853,000 motorists will call AAA for assistance at the roadside this holiday season. 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.