Holiday travel is expected to rebound from 2020 lows, AAA projects

As many people plan to travel for the holidays, they’ll have lots of company. AAA forecasts a major increase in travel from last year.

A total of 8.8 million Texans are expected to travel 50 miles or more away from home during the year-end holiday period, a 32% increase over 2020. The vast majority of those are expected to drive.

“A lot of people decided, of course, not to spend holidays with family and friends last year. However, different picture this year, we’ve got widespread vaccinations,” said Joshua Zuber, a spokesman for AAA Texas. “The CDC recently released guidance that saying it is safe for fully vaccinated people to travel and gather this holiday season, so people are excited to be reunited with their loved ones to have an in-person celebration.”

Despite the increase, the numbers are still lower than 2019. One hundred nine million people nationwide are projected to travel this year and 100 million of those by vehicle.

Zuber acknowledges the emergence of the omicron variant is adding a bit of uncertainty just as the holiday travel rush begins. He advises checking safety measures at your destination ahead of time, including the AAA’s travel restrictions map. Drivers should also pack face masks, sanitizer and wipes.

“You’ve got to make the decision that’s right for you, and that does look different for everyone,” Zuber said.

When to travel

With so many more people expected on roadways this year, choosing when you go is as important as how you plan to get there.

“Travel volume is typically lighter in the morning time, before or after rush hour,” Zuber said. “And then really, traffic typically builds throughout the day as you get into the afternoon and evening time, especially those days leading right up to the holidays such as Christmas and New Year’s.”

If traveling close-by, consider traveling on the day of the holiday when traffic volumes are at their lowest.

One other factor this year is increased gas prices. But those usually doesn’t stop people from making road trips, according to Zuber.

“They may think of ways to save money when they’re on a road trip, so that may mean dining out fewer times or maybe at less expensive restaurants, as well as maybe picking less expensive accommodations as well as other activities,” he said.

As of Dec. 16, the average gas price in Texas was $2.91 for regular unleaded, the lowest average price in the country. At $2.71, San Antonio has the lowest average price among the state’s largest metropolitan areas.

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