AAA forecasts 2.6 million Tennesseans to travel for year-end holidays

Published 12:34 pm Wednesday, December 14, 2022

’Tis the season to travel, and AAA estimates 62.6 million Tennesseans will journey 50 miles or more away from home from December 23 to January 2. That’s an increase of over 107,000 people over last year and the third highest on record for the year-end holiday travel period in Tennessee.
Nationwide, 90% of holiday travelers will drive to their destinations. In Tennessee, 2.4 million residents will take at least one holiday road trip. That’s 32,000 more than last year and nearly 92% of 2019’s volume.
Air travel will see a 14% increase over last year, with nearly 7.2 million Americans expected to fly. Flights and airports will be packed this holiday season, reminiscent of pre-pandemic days. Demand for flights has surged despite higher airline ticket prices. AAA expects the number of people taking holiday flights this year will come close to matching 2019 when 7.3 million Americans traveled by air.
“If the distance is not reasonable to drive, more people are flying to maximize the time spent at their destination,” Haas adds. “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.”
Other modes of transportation are also rebounding in a big way. AAA estimates travel by bus, rail, and cruise ship will rise to 3.6 million this holiday season, a 23% increase from last year and nearly 94% of 2019’s volume.
Holiday road trippers are getting the early gift of plunging prices at the pump. The state average has declined 46 cents per gallon since November 11.
On Sunday, the average price for gasoline in Tennessee was $2.86 per gallon. That’s nearly 17 cents per gallon less than a year ago.
“Since most Americans have already made their holiday travel plans, these plunging pump prices may not necessarily lead to more auto travelers,” said Megan Cooper, spokeswoman for AAA – The Auto Club Group. “What we often see instead is consumers reallocating the added savings, spending more on hotels, shopping and dining out.”
Hotel and Airfares are Slightly Higher than 2021; Car Rental Rates are Cheaper
• Airfares cost 6% more than last year.The lowest round trip airfare costs $163 vs $154 in 2021
• Hotels cost 5% more than 2021. A mid-range AAA Three Diamond property costs $167 per night vs $160 last year
• Car rentals cost 19% less. The average daily rate is $105 vs $130 last year
Drivers should prepare for delays, particularly in and around major metro areas. Nationwide, drivers could see travel times increase by 25%, according to INRIX, a provider of transportation analytics and insights. The most congested days on the road are forecast to be Friday before Christmas, Dec. 27 and 28, and on Monday, Jan. 2. INRIX predicts the single busiest travel day will be Tuesday, Dec. 27. The best advice for avoiding congestion is to leave early in the morning or later in the evening.
AAA Advice for Auto Travelers
• Leave early so you are not in a rush.
• Watch the weather. Consider alternate routes or adjust your departure time to avoid driving through bad weather.
• Never drive distracted. Pre-program your GPS and put the cellphone down while driving.
• Wear your seat belt and never drive impaired.
Nearly 899,000 drivers will need AAA roadside assistance during the 11-day holiday period. The most common reasons are for dead batteries, flat tires and lockouts. AAA encourages drivers to get a full vehicle inspection before hitting the road – checking everything from your tires to brakes, lights, and wiper blades.
Ensure your vehicle has an emergency kit. This should include jumper cables, a first-aid kit, car/portable phone charger(s), flashlight with extra batteries, and drinking water and snacks for everyone in the car.
Being stuck on the roadside will be especially dangerous during the holidays, due to the influx of auto travelers and the potential for impaired drivers. AAA reminds motorists to slow down and move over for first responders and tow trucks. AAA also urges drivers to move over for disabled vehicles on the roadside.
“Whether it’s a tow truck or a disabled vehicle, when you see flashing lights please move over,” said Cooper. “We want to make sure all holiday travelers, tow truck drivers and first responders make it home safely for the holidays.”
AAA Advice for Air Travelers
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.
“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 cancelled, passengers can receive compensation for covered out-of-pocket expenses.”
Other Air Travel Tips
  • Check-in early online.
  • Monitor your flight status using your air carrier’s mobile app.
  • Arrive 2-3 hours before scheduled departure.
  • Pack medications and an extra set of clothes in your carry-on bag, just in case your flight is delayed or cancelled.
  • Book a flight that leaves early in the day. Flights in the afternoon and evening are more susceptible to delays and cancellations.
  • Book a direct flight. Otherwise, build in extra time between connections, in case your first flight is delayed.
  • Consider traveling on Christmas Day. This could offer the best combination of availability and price.

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