2017 holiday season to have most travelers ever

The year-end holidays are a time when families want to be together, and for many, that means they need to travel. Whether they can afford to do so depends on the economy, and AAA Travel is predicting—thanks to improving consumer sentiment and relatively low gas prices—that the year-end holiday travel season will be the busiest ever recorded. That’s because they’re forecasting that more than 107 million Americans will journey 50 miles or more between December 23 and January 1.

AAA's forecast by the numbers

  •  Travelers by automobile:

    97.4 million
  • Travelers by air:

    6.4 million
  • Travelers by train or other:

    3.6 million

  • National average gas price for regular as of Dec. 13:

    $2.45
  • Projected increase in travelers in 2017 vs. 2016:

    +4 million
  • Years that travel volume will have increased:

    9 in a row

The factors that affect the forecast

  • Economy still going strong

    Overall economic growth has been strong, with the unemployment rate approaching historic lows.
  • Consumers feel optimistic

    Household net worth has gone up sharply, and consumer sentiment is higher than it was a year ago.
  • Gas prices up slightly

    The national average for a gallon of regular is around $2.45, which is 22 cents more than the same time last year.
Road traffic forecast for major cities, according to INRIX
 
Based on historical and recent travel trends for the holiday week, transportation analytics company INRIX predicts drivers will experience the greatest congestion on Wednesday, December 20 and Thursday, December 21, in the late afternoon as commuters leave work early and mix with holiday travelers. 

  • Atlanta

    Atlanta

    Worst day for travel:
    Thursday, Dec. 21

    Worst time for travel:
    4:30-6:30 p.m.

  • Boston

    Boston

    Worst day for travel:
    Thursday, Dec. 21

    Worst time for travel:
    2:30-4:30 p.m.

  • Chicago

    Chicago

    Worst day for travel:
    Thursday, Dec. 21

    Worst time for travel:
    4-6 p.m.

  • Detroit

    Detroit

    Worst day for travel:
    Thursday, Dec. 21

    Worst time for travel:
    3-5:30 p.m.

  • Houston

    Houston

    Worst day for travel:
    Wednesday, Dec. 20

    Worst time for travel:
    5:30-7:30 p.m.

  • Los Angeles

    Los Angeles

    Worst day for travel:
    Wednesday, Dec. 20

    Worst time for travel:
    3:30-6 p.m.

  • New York City

    New York City

    Worst day for travel:
    Wednesday, Dec. 20

    Worst time for travel:
    3:30-5:30 p.m.

  • San Francisco

    San Francisco

    Worst day for travel:
    Wednesday, Dec. 20

    Worst time for travel:
    3-5:30 p.m.

  • Washington, D.C.

    Washington, D.C.

    Worst day for travel:
    Thursday, Dec. 21

    Worst time for travel:
    3-6 p.m.

What it means for you

This holiday season, AAA Travel predicts there will be about 97.4 million automobile travelers, or almost 91 percent of all trips.

 

With so many cars on the road, it’s no surprise that this is a busy time for AAA’s Roadside Assistance. AAA expects to rescue more than 900,000 motorists this holiday travel season. Want to avoid becoming one of them? Here’s what you can do:

  • Get your battery checked

    If your battery is more than three years old, don’t risk getting stranded. One easy way to have it tested is with AAA Battery Service, which will come directly to you. Learn more about AAA Battery Service.
  • Check your tire pressure

    Underinflated or unevenly worn tires can lead to sudden blowouts, which are especially dangerous on icy roads. Simply monitoring tire pressure can go a long way toward preventing such interruptions.
  • Bring a spare key

    Despite the wide adoption of wireless “smart” keys, AAA hasn't seen a significant reduction in lockout calls. Having a backup key can’t prevent a lockout, but can make it much easier to resolve.

  • Get a checkup

    Dead batteries and flat tires are most common, but AAA tows lots of vehicles with unforeseen engine, transmission, and brake issues.  Not sure where to go? Consider a AAA Approved Auto Repair facility.
  • Pack an emergency kit

    Every vehicle should have a kit with a phone charger, flashlight, first-aid kit, tire pressure gauge, adjustable wrench, windshield washer solution, jumper cables, emergency flares or reflectors, drinking water, and snacks.
  • Get the Auto Club App

    Whether you’re looking to map a route, find low gas prices, request Roadside Assistance, or find an Approved Auto Repair facility, the Auto Club App makes it simple. Learn more about the Auto Club App.