Record number of Floridians expected to travel for Christmas, New Year

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‘Finalize your travel plans now, anticipate longer lines, and give yourself extra time to get to your destination.’

Expect travel delays as New Year’s Day approaches.

An estimated 6.6 million Floridians will travel 50 miles or more during the year-end holiday travel period between Dec. 23 and Jan. 1 — a new record, according to AAA — The Auto Club Group.

That’s nearly 218,000 (3.4%) more than last year, the previous record high, not including out-of-state visitors.

AAA forecasts more than 6 million Sunshine State residents will take to the road, a roughly 181,000-person increase from 2022. The not-for-profit organization anticipates another 356,790 will travel by air, a more than 15,000-person uptick over the year prior.

“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,” AAA Vice President of Travel Debbie Haas said in a statement.

“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.”

AAA predicts about 31% of Americans — 115.2 million people — will travel during the last week of the year, up 2.5 million from 2022. An overwhelming share of them (90%) are expected to do so by car or motorcycle.

They may enjoy cheaper gas while doing so. On Monday, gas prices sat below $3 per gallon in 23 states, including Florida, where the average price was $2.99 — a new 2023 low.

According to transportation data and insights company INRIX, road congestion will be the worst Dec. 23-28. But motorists should also prepare for heavy traffic Dec. 30, when many people will be returning home or setting off for New Year’s Eve festivities.

The best times to set out, the company said, are before lunchtime or after 7 p.m.

“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,” INRIX transportation analyst Bob Pishue said in a statement.

“Avoid peak commuting hours and use traffic apps, local (Department of Transportation) notifications, and 511 services to minimize holiday travel traffic frustrations.”

Some 7.5 million Americans, including 357,000 Floridians, will take a commercial flight between Christmas and the New Year, AAA said.

If reached, the nationally projected numbers would set a new record for the period. In Florida, they’d fall 42,000 air travelers short of the state record set in 2003.

Of the 10 top domestic destinations in the U.S., based on AAA flight booking data, two are in Florida: Orlando and Miami.

The time to buy plane tickets was yesterday, Haas said.

“AAA recommends booking flights as early as possible to ensure the best combination of prices and availability,” she 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.”

About 4 million people will travel by bus, train and cruise, the most since 2008 and a 394,000-person increase from last year. Demand for oceanic trips and the average price of a boarding pass have skyrocketed post-pandemic.

Haas said savvy travelers know that right after the holidays, when cruise lines are offering some of the best deals of the year, is the best time to book a cruise, “and AAA members get exclusive benefits in addition to those discounts.”


Source: Florida Politics

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