Busiest holiday travel period ever expected this year

Tammy Harvey
December 17, 2017

Based on historical and recent travel trends, INRIX expects drivers will experience the greatest amount of congestion before the holiday week - on Wednesday, Dec. 20 and Thursday, Dec. 21 - in the late afternoon as commuters leave work early and mix with holiday travelers.

The projected travel volume is an increase of 3.1 percent nationally and 3.6 percent in OH, and marks the ninth consecutive year of year-end holiday travel growth.

Airfares are also 20 percent lower than last Christmas, which makes this season a bit brighter.

The strong economy and growing consumer confidence has fueled the growth in holiday travel, despite the most expensive year-end gas prices since 2014, according to AAA.

"More expensive gas prices are not swaying holiday revelers to stay home", AAA Senior Vice President Bill Sutherland said.

For this year's holiday travel forecast, AAA partnered with INRIX, a global transportation and analytics company to analyze the best and worst times to travel. This sets a new five-year record high rate for the year-end holiday period.

According to data released by AAA, almost 107.3 million Americans will travel this year for the holidays.

Holiday travel is expected to be the highest ever with commute times triple what they usually are.

That's despite gas prices being expected to jump almost 40 cents nationally from 2016, from $2.17 to $2.53 per gallon, according to the association's holiday forecast [PDF], produced by IHS Markit.

"With record-level travelers hitting the road this holiday, drivers must be prepared for delays in major metros", said Graham Cookson, chief economist & head of research at INRIX.

Travel Tip: Try to avoid traveling through major cities during peak travel times.

Those delays are in large part due to the fact that most holiday travelers - some 97.4 million - are expected to drive.

Cheaper gas prices, airfare and hotel rates all contribute to the increase in travel.

Auto rental rates are up 11 percent from a year ago, to an average of $74 per day.

Moving into two straight weeks of US holiday travel, AAA said there could be some relief at the pump, but gas prices are expensive by historic standards.

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