Will This 2023 Holiday Season Break Any Travel Records in the US?

Jackson Wheeler
6 Min Read

  • AAA projects this holiday season to see the second highest overall travel volume since the year 2000, with 115.2 million people expected to travel 50 miles or more from home, after the 2019 record of 119 million.
  • The association expects this holiday travel season to be the single busiest for airlines since the year 2000 with 7.5 million trekkers, eclipsing the 2019 record of 7.3 million air travelers.
  • About 104 million drivers are expected on the roads this holiday season, traveling 50 miles or more, which should be the second highest volume since the 2019 record of 108 million.

This past Thanksgiving week was already among the busiest for travel volume since the year 2000, with air, road, and rail travel showing remarkable recovery and setting their own records in the process. The TSA saw the busiest day in its history the Sunday after Thanksgiving.

It certainly helped that gas prices cooperated and so did airline schedules, with relatively few cancellations and no errant snowstorms that could have snarled travel plans for weary holiday travelers.

The busy Thanksgiving travel week we saw in 2023 means we could be in for a similar second-place record for winter holiday trekkers since the year 2000, AAA projects.

The association expects a 2.2% increase in the number of domestic travelers compared to 2022, but just short of the 2019 record that saw 119 million. For 2023 AAA projects the US to see the second highest overall passenger travel volume since the year 2000, with 115.2 million expected to travel 50 miles or more from home this December.

But air travel by itself is expected to set a record. AAA projects 7.5 million holiday jet setters this season, eclipsing the 2019 record of 7.3 million.

About 104 million people, on the other hand, are expected to drive to their destinations, representing a relatively small 1.8% bump over 2022, but still expected to represent the second highest volume after the 2019 record of 108 million.

“Demand for cruises has skyrocketed post-pandemic,” AAA notes.

“This year-end holiday forecast, with an additional 2.5 million travelers compared to last year, mirrors what AAA Travel has been observing throughout 2023,” said Paula Twidale, Senior Vice President of AAA Travel. “More Americans are investing in travel, despite the cost, to make memories with loved ones and experience new places.”

The good news for air travelers is that average ticket prices are slightly lower than in 2022, with the rental car industry having also recovered from the turmoil and car shortages of the early pandemic era. But airlines and rental car lots alike will be put to the test this year, with air travel volume expected to beat the 2019 record of 7.3 million travelers.

Those who will be on trains, buses, or cruises are also expected to see record crowds, as AAA projects this year’s travel season will be the busiest for these three modes of travel since the year 2000.

“Demand for cruises has skyrocketed post-pandemic, and the industry is now preparing for the wave of bookings that traditionally happens at the start of the new year,” AAA notes.

When it comes to the individual busiest road travel days, AAA notes that Saturday, December 23, and Thursday, December 28, are bound to see the most congested roads. But Friday, December 22, should be no walk in the park either, as drivers leave early for the long holiday weekend.

However, AAA notes that Sunday, December 24, should see minimal traffic increases, as will Sunday, December 31.

“Nationwide, drivers could see travel times up to 20% longer this holiday season. In major metros, especially in Denver, Minneapolis, and Washington DC, drivers could experience nearly double the typical delays,” said Bob Pishue, transportation analyst at INRIX.

What is the maximum distance you would drive for a holiday week to avoid airline travel? Let us know in the comments below.

Headshot of Jay Ramey

Jay Ramey grew up around very strange European cars, and instead of seeking out something reliable and comfortable for his own personal use he has been drawn to the more adventurous side of the dependability spectrum. Despite being followed around by French cars for the past decade, he has somehow been able to avoid Citroën ownership, judging them too commonplace, and is currently looking at cars from the former Czechoslovakia. Jay has been with Autoweek since 2013. 

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Jackson Wheeler is a skilled editor at Speedofdaily.com, specializing in automotive content. With a background in Journalism and Automotive Engineering, he combines his passion for cars with his writing expertise to deliver captivating articles. Jackson's deep knowledge of automotive technology and his racing experience make him a valuable asset to the team, providing readers with informative and engaging content.
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