A record number of Americans are expected to hit the road, take to the sky or catch a train this holiday season, according to AAA and analytics company INRIX.
More than a third of the country - around 112.5 million people - will travel by automobile, airplane or train for end-of-the-year gatherings between Dec. 22 and Jan. 1, according to a travel forecast released Dec. 13. AAA says the expected number of travelers is a 4.4 percent increase over last year and the most ever since the motor club association has been tracking holiday travel.
"'Tis the season for holiday travel, and more Americans than ever will journey to spend time with friends and family or choose to take a vacation," said Bryan Shilling, managing director for AAA Travel products and services, in a news release. "Strong economic growth fueled by robust consumer spending continues to drive strong demand for seasonal travel. With a record-breaking one-third of the country choosing to travel this holiday, roadways and airports are sure to be busy."
The bad news for the roughly 102.1 million people INRIX expects to take a road trip this month is increased road congestion around the big cities and busiest roads starting around Wednesday, Dec. 19. The predicted "worst day of travel" this year is Dec. 20.
"Our advice is to avoid traveling during peak commuting hours," according to Trevor Reed, transportation analyst at INRIX. "If schedules allow, leave bright and early, or after the morning commute."
Those traveling by plane can expect airports to be at their busiest Saturday, Dec. 22, and Sunday, Dec. 23, then again Wednesday, Dec. 26, as travelers return home, the news release states. Christmas Eve and Christmas Day are typically the lightest days for air travel around the holiday.
The good news for travelers this year is falling gas prices.
The average price of regular unleaded gasoline in Minnesota was $2.199 per gallon Tuesday, Dec. 18, the lowest average so far in 2018, according to GasBuddy.com. The average was $2.22 in Wisconsin, also the lowest price of the year.
The weather forecast for the week appears cooperative for travelers as well, with high temperatures in the 30s around the Twin Cities and only a chance of some wintry mix Wednesday night, according to the National Weather Service.
Should winter weather rear its head, Minnesota Department of Transportation offers these safety tips:
- Turn on headlights and wear seatbelts.
- Slow down and keep back at least 10 car lengths from snowplows.
- Refrain from using cruise control.
- The road behind a snowplow is safer to drive on.