Expect some traffic delays over the holidays: AAA is forecasting that more than one-third of Americans will travel this holiday season, with a record-breaking 112.5 million travelers taking to the nation's runways, roads and rails. That's a 4.4 percent increase over last year, and the most since AAA has been tracking holiday travel.
For the more than 102 million people who will pack up their cars for a holiday road trip, INRIX, a global mobility analytics company, predicts travel times in the most congested cities in the U.S. could be as much as four times longer than a normal trip, with Thursday, Dec. 20 predicted to be the worst day for travel.
"'Tis the season for holiday travel, and more Americans than ever will journey to spend time with friends and family or choose to take a vacation," said Bryan Shilling, managing director, AAA Travel products and services, in a press release. "Strong economic growth fueled by robust consumer spending continues to drive strong demand for seasonal travel. With a record-breaking one-third of the country choosing to travel this holiday, roadways and airports are sure to be busy."
Based on historical and recent travel trends, INRIX expects drivers to experience the greatest amount of congestion before the holiday week - starting on Wednesday, Dec. 19 - as commuters and holiday travelers mix on busy roadways.
"Our advice is to avoid traveling during peak commuting hours," said Trevor Reed, transportation analyst at INRIX. "If schedules allow, leave bright and early, or after the morning commute."
AAA expects to rescue more than 960,000 motorists at the roadside this holiday period, mainly due to dead batteries, lockouts and flat tires. AAA recommends motorists take their vehicle to a trusted repair facility to perform any needed maintenance before heading out, such as oil changes, fluid level checks, battery tests and tire inspections.
AAA's projections are based on economic forecasting and research by IHS Markit, a London-based business information provider. AAA has been reporting on holiday travel trends for more than two decades.