Americans ready to shift into higher travel gear this holiday season

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The flexibility of hybrid work and the luck of the calendar will help drive a surge in Americans traveling from Christmas to New Year’s weekends this holiday season, AAA announced.

The auto club expects 112.7 million Americans to travel at least 50 miles from Dec. 23 to Jan. 2, an increase of 3.6 million miles over the same time last year. That would make 2022 the third-busiest travel year since AAA started tracking holiday travel in 2000.

“This year, travel time will be extended due to Christmas Day and New Year’s Day falling on Sundays,” Ragina C. Ali, AAA Mid-Atlantic spokeswoman for Maryland and Washington, D.C., said in a statement. “With hybrid work schedules, we are seeing more people take long weekends to travel because they can work remotely at their destination and be more flexible with the days they depart and return.”

The number of Americans traveling for the winter holidays will be up 3% from last year but still down 5% from pre-pandemic levels, AAA said.

The group predicts 102 million Americans will drive, a 2% increase from last year. Falling gasoline expenses will put more drivers on the road as prices at the pump return to October 2021 levels, AAA said in a press release.

According to the AAA forecast, air travel will increase by 14% over last year, with 7.2 million Americans flying this winter. In 2019, the last holiday before the pandemic, 7.3 million people took flights.

For other modes of transportation, AAA estimates 3.6 million people will travel by bus, rail and cruise ship this holiday season. That’s up 23% from last year and 94% of 2019’s volume.

Forecasters expect delays and emergencies due to packed airports and nasty weather in parts of the Northeast. According to AAA Mid-Atlantic, the auto club expects to rescue more than 28,000 stranded motorists across Maryland, Virginia and the District over the holiday period.

Travelers looking to reduce stress as holiday traffic approaches pre-pandemic volume should do some research and “early planning,” said Larry Yu, professor of hospitality management at George Washington University.

“They should arrive at the airport early, reserve airport parking ahead of time and book rental cars early for the destinations they visit,” Mr. Yu told The Washington Times. “For travelers by car, they may consider less crowded destinations and use prepaid toll services.”

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