Floridians will Travel in record numbers for holidays

Posted 12/11/23

AAA projects a record-setting 6.6 million Floridians will travel 50 miles or more...

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Floridians will Travel in record numbers for holidays


TAMPA — AAA projects a record-setting 6.6 million Floridians will travel 50 miles or more during the upcoming year-end holiday travel period*, spanning from December 23 to January 1. The Auto Club Group expects nearly 218,000 (3.4%) more Florida travelers than last year (the previous record high), which does not include visitors from out of state.

“AAA has seen steady year-over-year growth in travel demand, culminating with what is expected to be the busiest year-end holiday travel season on record in Florida, and the second-busiest nationwide,” said Debbie Haas, Vice President of Travel for AAA – The Auto Club Group. “Despite various inflationary pressures, Americans are still willing to budget for travel. With a record number of travelers, the roads, airports and cruise lines will be more crowded than normal. So finalize your travel plans now, anticipate longer lines, and give yourself extra time to get to your destination.”

National Travel Figures

115.2 million Total Travelers
2nd highest on record (2019)
2.5 million more than last year

103.6 million Auto Travelers
2nd highest on record (2019)
1.8 million more than last year

7.5 million Air Travelers
Record high
336,000 more than last year

4 million travelers by other modes (bus, train, cruise)
Most travelers since 2008
5th most on record
394,000 more than last year

AAA Expects a Record Number of Florida Drivers

AAA expects road travel to reach an all-time high. More than 6 million people will drive to their holiday destinations, an increase of 181,000 compared to 2022. As 2023 comes to a close, drivers can expect to pay about the same or less for a gallon of gas than they did last holiday season, when the Florida average on Christmas Day and New Year’s Day was $2.99 and $3.24, respectively.

Air Travel Soars to New Record Highs Nationwide; Second Highest in Florida
Airports are expected to be the busiest they’ve ever been throughout the Christmas and New Year’s travel period. Nationally, AAA projects 7.5 million air travelers. That’s 200,000 more than the previous record set in 2019.

Meanwhile, nearly 357,000 Floridians are forecast to take a commercial flight. While that is 15,000 more than last year, it’s the second highest air travel volume on record, behind 2003 (399,000).

Average ticket prices are slightly lower than last year. According to AAA booking data, the average price for a roundtrip ticket to Orlando this holiday season is $613, down from $735 last year.

“AAA recommends booking flights as early as possible to ensure the best combination of price and availability,” Haas said. “Those waiting until the last minute could catch a discount but may have fewer options in terms of non-stop flights and seat availability. Whenever you book, it’s important to consider travel insurance.”

“Seemingly every year around this time we hear about winter weather that causes widespread cancellations or delays,” Haas continued. “That’s another reason why we encourage travelers to get travel insurance, which offers protection for covered expenses associated with flight cancellations, lost luggage, and on flights with delays of as little as three hours.”

The number of people traveling by other modes, like bus, train, and cruise, is projected to surpass 2019. AAA expects more than 4 million Americans will take alternative transportation over Christmas and New Year’s compared to 3.66 million in 2022 and 3.89 million in 2019. 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.

“Savvy travelers know that right after the holidays is the best time to book a cruise,” Haas said. “That’s when cruise lines offer some of the best deals, and AAA members get exclusive benefits in addition to those discounts.”

Best/Worst Times to Drive
INRIX, a provider of transportation data and insights, says there will be several days of potentially bad traffic during the 10-day holiday period. Saturday, December 23, and Thursday, December 28, will be the most congested days on the road. INRIX also says Saturday, December 30, when many people will be heading back home from their holiday destinations or traveling for New Year’s Eve, will see an increase in traffic compared to a normal Saturday. The best times to hit the road are before lunchtime or after 7pm.

“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. “Avoid peak commuting hours and use traffic apps, local DOT notifications, and 511 services to minimize holiday travel traffic frustrations.”

Top Destinations

This holiday season, many travelers are heading to warm weather destinations like Florida and the Caribbean, tourist hotspots like New York and Las Vegas, and European cities like London and Rome. Here are the top domestic and international destinations based on AAA flight booking data.

Airport Parking Tips
With a record number of air travelers expected this holiday season, AAA recommends travelers plan ahead and take precautions when driving to the airport and parking their vehicles.

• Reserve a parking spot ahead of time to save time and money.
• Choose a well-lit, secure garage.
• On-site garages tend to be more expensive but offer convenience and peace of mind given their proximity to the terminals.
• If choosing off-site parking, look for reputable businesses like The Parking Spot, which is securely fenced and offers a shuttle to the airport (AAA members get a discount).
• Opt for covered parking if you live in an area expecting inclement weather.
• Remove valuables from your vehicle.
• Lock doors and roll up windows.
• Take a photo of your spot to remember where you parked.
• Keep your ticket and receipt (if you prepaid) handy to show when exiting.

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