Over 115.2 million people are expected to travel over the holiday

Dec 14, 2023, 4:00 PM

Traffic moves on I-15 in Salt Lake City. AAA predicts that this holiday season will be busiest for ...

Traffic moves on I-15 in Salt Lake City on Thursday, May 18, 2023. (Spenser Heaps/Deseret News)

(Spenser Heaps/Deseret News)

SALT LAKE — AAA is projecting that this year will be one of the busiest for holiday travel in more than 20 years.

Over 115.2 million people are expected to travel between December 23rd and January 3rd. That’s 2.2% higher than the amount of travelers last year. AAA spokesperson Julian Paredes said this is one of the largest numbers of travelers since 2000.

“It’s going to be really busy, that number is the second largest since AAA started keeping track 20 years ago. Only 2019 was bigger than this year,” said Paredes.

In 2019, there were over 119 million travelers. However, Paredes explained that he believes more people will travel in upcoming years.

“Travel had been down for the last few years because of the pandemic,” he said. “But, year over year, travel has been getting busier and busier. We’re going to get closer to that 2019 figure, but this year is definitely going to be… one of the busiest it’s ever been.”

How are people traveling this year?

Of those 115.2 million travelers, 103 million are expected to drive to their holiday destination. Paredes explained that this holiday travel will lead to heavy traffic congestion.

“Your commute might be up to 20% longer than normal,” he said. “You want to start your trip before noon if possible. Or, if you feel comfortable driving at night, starting your trip after 6 p.m. You really want to avoid the rush hours during that period.”

Breaking down the numbers even further, Paredes said 7.5 million travelers will be flying and the remaining 4 million people will be traveling by buses, trains, and on cruises.

For those flying, Paredes suggests researching airline refund and cancellation policies in advance to be prepared for any disruptions.

AAA holiday travel tips

Other AAA traveling tips and reminders:

  • check the forecast to be prepared for any weather disruptions,
  • if possible, reserve an airport parking spot and avoid checking in luggage,
  • know your air travel rights in advance,
  • travel during off-peak periods, for example, before 2 p.m. or after 9 p.m., (the heaviest congestion is expected Saturday Dec.  23 and Thursday, Dec. 28, and
  • assure your vehicle is road-ready.

And this reminder from AAA: If your flight is canceled and you are not rebooked, you are entitled to a refund.

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Over 115.2 million people are expected to travel over the holiday