Record-High Number of Floridians Expected to Hit the Road for the Holidays

AAA released a report this week showing around 6.3 million Floridians will hit the road this holiday season by traveling 50 miles or more from Dec. 23 to Jan. 2.

“That’s an increase of nearly 108,000 people over last year and a new record-high for the year-end holiday travel period in Florida,” AAA noted.

Most of those Floridians–5.8 million–will travel by car while around 336,150 are expected to fly–an increase of 14 percent from last year–and another 223,250 will travel by other modes. With 23 percent more Americans expected to travel by other modes than last year–including busses, cruises and trains–Florida’s cruise industry could see a boost.

“National travel figures are also stronger than 2021, yet slightly lower than pre-pandemic levels. An estimated 112.7 million Americans are forecast to travel during the year-end holidays. That’s an increase of 3.6 million people compared to last year and the third busiest since AAA began tracking in 2000,” AAA noted.

Debbie Haas, a vice president of travel for AAA and the Auto Club Group, weighed in on the report.

“Despite inflationary pressures, consumers remain resilient and dedicated to travel this year, and the holidays will be no different,” said Haas “Americans are spending more on travel than any other time in the past two years. The good news is the cost for a holiday road trip will be less expensive than anticipated, now that gas prices are on the way down.

“If the distance is not reasonable to drive, more people are flying to maximize the time spent at their destination,” Haas added. “Conversely, if the travel distances are reasonable and more than one or two people in the household are taking the trip, it may be more cost-effective to drive rather than buy multiple air tickets and rent a car.”

AAA also stressed that gas prices across Florida have lowered in recent weeks and that trend is expected to continue.

“Since most Americans have already made their holiday travel plans, these plunging pump prices may not necessarily lead to more auto travelers,” said Mark Jenkins, a spokesman for AAA and the Auto Club Group. “What we often see instead is consumers reallocating the added savings, spending more on hotels, shopping and dining out.”

AAA reported that airfares are 6 percent more expensive this year compared to the holidays in 2021 but noted that hotels are 5 percent less expensive and car rentals are 19 percent less expensive.

AAA warned about increased traffic over the holidays.

“Drivers should prepare for delays, particularly in and around major metro areas. Nationwide, drivers could see travel times increase by 25 percent, according to INRIX, a provider of transportation analytics and insights. The most congested days on the road are forecast to be Friday before Christmas, December 27 and 28, and on Monday, January 2. INRIX predicts the single busiest travel day will be Tuesday, December 27th. The best advice for avoiding congestion is to leave early in the morning or later in the evening,” AAA warned.

AAA also warned about winter weather impacting travel, especially for flying.

“Strong demand will create long lines at airports, yet winter weather is the wild card. Snow and other winter conditions can not only cause delays and cancellations, but combine that with strong demand during this season, and you can have a hard time getting re-booked in a hurry,” AAA noted.

“If you plan on flying this time of year, travel insurance can be extremely valuable for air travelers,” Haas said. “There are policies that can provide compensation for flight delays for as little as three hours. And if your flight is canceled, passengers can receive compensation for covered out-of-pocket expenses.”

Kevin Derby
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