Holiday travel predicted to see across-the-board increases



Those still looking to make travel plans for the fast-approaching holiday travel season are in for some competition.

Approximately 115.2 million Americans will travel 50 miles or more from home over the 10-day year-end holiday travel period, which is defined as Dec. 23, 2023 through Jan. 1, 2024, AAA said Monday. This year’s total number of travelers is a 2.2% increase compared to last year and the second-highest year-end travel forecast since AAA began tracking holiday travel in 2000.

Much like last month with Thanksgiving, traveling later this month is rooted in a strong desire to gather with family and friends, said AAA Club Alliance spokeswoman Kara Hitchens. But with arrival of a new season, there’s an additional factor at play, she said.

“I think for folks, particularly in Ohio, there’s an opportunity to escape the winter weather,” Hitchens said. “The nice, warm Florida weather is calling people’s names.”

In addition, children are out of school in late December, “so people are taking advantage of that,” she said.

The vast majority of those on the move — 104 million — are expected to travel by car. That’s an increase of 1.8% compared to 2022, and the second highest on record after 2019, when 108 million drivers hit the road for the holidays.

AAA projects 7.5 million air travelers nationwide this holiday season, eclipsing 2019′s record of 7.3 million passengers. Average ticket prices are slightly lower than last year but likely will increase in the days leading up to the holiday, according to AAA booking data.

“If you’re going to be able to find a good deal, you’re going to be lucky,” Hitchens said. “We believe that the inventory is pretty tight, so ... the longer you wait, the more expensive that that ticket will be.”

Those who have flexible schedules have the best bet at picking up on last minute deals, she said.

“If you’re able to travel on the holiday, you might catch a good deal there because a lot a lot of times people want to already be at their destination on Christmas Day or on New Year’s Day,” she said.

The busiest Christmas and New Year’s travel period on record was 2019, with 119 million travelers.

Even though this forecast isn’t predicted to break the record, “travelers should be aware that airports are expected to be the busiest they’ve ever been over the Christmas and New Year’s travel period,” AAA said.

Load factor, which is the actual number of seats available divided by the actual number of seats flown, has been higher on average compared to 2022, according to Linda Hughes, spokeswoman for Dayton International Airport.

“Although our available seats are just slightly higher than last year for this holiday period, we seem to have a greater number of people traveling from DAY (Dayton International Airport).”

For the period of Dec. 24, 2023 through Jan. 1, 2024, the number of seats available are “very much the same” as they were during the same period in 2022, Hughes said.

“However, since the load factors throughout this year have been higher than last year, we anticipate having more travelers during this holiday period,” she said. “During this 10-day period we have 14,482 seats available.”

AAA expects more than 4 million Americans will take alternative transportation like buses, trains and cruise ships over Christmas and New Year’s compared to nearly 3.7 million in 2022 and nearly 3.9 million in 2019.

For those who plan to hit the road this holiday season, 12 weeks of consecutive declines in gas prices are making travel more affordable. Motorists in the Dayton, Springfield and Cincinnati areas are paying 57 cents, 55 cents and 49 cents less than what they paid for gas a year ago, respectively, according to Compared to a year ago, prices in those areas are down 24 cents, 14 cents and 49 cents, respectively.

Saturday, Dec. 23, and Thursday, Dec. 28, will be the most congested days on the road, according to INRIX, a provider of transportation data and insights.

INRIX also says Sat., Dec. 30, will see heavier traffic compared to a typical Saturday because many travelers will be returning from their holiday destinations or heading toward their New Year’s Eve destinations. It said the best times for motorists to start driving are before lunchtime or after 7 p.m.

“We just recommend that you make sure that your car is running well, so that you don’t end up at the side of the road,” Hitchens said.

Holiday rush tips for travelers

  • Passengers should arrive in the airport terminal no less than 90 minutes prior to their scheduled departure time.
  • Contact the airline on which you are flying with any questions regarding the status of your flight.
  • Contact to identify any prohibited items that TSA will not allow in your checked and/or carry-on luggage.
  • “Pack your patience,” as many travelers are in a rush to get to their destination.

SOURCE: Dayton International Airport

Best and Worst Times to Travel by Car

Date/Worst Travel Time/Best Travel Time

Saturday, Dec 23/11 a.m.–7 p.m./Before 10 a.m.

Tuesday, Dec 26/1–5 p.m./Before noon

Wednesday, Dec 27/1–7 p.m./Before noon

Thursday, Dec 28/2–8 p.m./Before noon

Friday, Dec 29/2–8 p.m./Before noon

Saturday, Dec. 30/5–7 p.m./Before noon

Dec. 24, Dec. 25, Dec. 31 and Jan. 1: Minimal Traffic Impact Expected


Top Domestic and International Destinations


  1. Orlando, Florida
  2. Anaheim, California
  3. Chicago, Illinois
  4. Charlotte, North Carolina
  5. Miami, Florida
  6. Atlanta, Georgia
  7. Las Vegas, Nevada
  8. New York, New York
  9. Phoenix, Arizona
  10. Houston, Texas


  1. London, England
  2. St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands
  3. Aruba
  4. Dublin, Ireland
  5. Toronto, Ontario, Canada
  6. Rome, Italy
  7. Reykjavík, Iceland
  8. San Juan, Puerto Rico
  9. Montego Bay, Jamaica
  10. Costa Rica


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