AAA Predicts Record Number of Air Travelers This Holiday Season

AAA projects 115.2 million travelers will head 50 miles or more from home over the 10-day year-end holiday travel period (December 23, 2023 to Monday, January 1, 2024). This year’s total number of domestic travelers is a 2.2 percent increase over last year and the second highest year-end travel forecast since 2000, when AAA began tracking holiday travel (2019 remains the busiest Christmas and New Year’s travel period on record with 119 million travelers). 

This year, however, will see an additional 2.5 million travelers compared to last year, according to AAA Travel. This mirrors the trend it has been observing throughout 2023.

Airports are expected to be the busiest they’ve ever been over the Christmas and New Year’s travel period. AAA projects 7.5 million air travelers this holiday season, surpassing 2019’s record of 7.3 million passengers. Average ticket prices are slightly lower than last year; according to AAA booking data, the average price for a roundt-rip ticket to Orlando (the top domestic travel destination) this holiday season is $613, down from $735 last year. A round-trip ticket to Las Vegas (No. 7) is $508 now, compared to $705 in 2022. 

AAA expects nearly 104 million people to drive to their holiday destinations, an increase of 1.8 percent compared to 2022. This year’s projected number of drivers is the second highest on record after 2019 when 108 million drivers hit the road for the holidays. As 2023 comes to a close, drivers can expect to pay about the same or less for a gallon of gas than they did last holiday season, when the national average on Christmas Day and New Year’s Day was $3.10 and $3.20, respectively. 

The number of people traveling by other modes—like bus, train and cruise—is projected to surpass 2019. AAA expects more than 4 million Americans will take alternative transportation over Christmas and New Year’s, compared to 3.66 million in 2022 and 3.89 million in 2019. Demand for cruises has skyrocketed post-pandemic. 

Top Year-End Holiday Destinations

This holiday season, many travelers are heading to warm-weather destinations like Florida and the Caribbean, tourist hot spots like New York and Las Vegas, and European cities like London and Rome. Here are top domestic and international destinations, based on AAA flight booking data: 

Domestic International/U.S. Territories
Orlando, FL London, England
Anaheim, CA St. Thomas, U.S.V.I.
Chicago, IL Aruba
Charlotte, NC Dublin, Ireland
Miami, FL Toronto, Ontario, Canada
Atlanta, GA Rome, Italy
Las Vegas, NV Reykjavik, Iceland
New York, NY San Juan, Puerto Rico
Phoenix, AZ Montego Bay, Jamaica
Houston, TX Costa Rica

Source: AAA

Related Stories

The Busiest Airline Routes in the World

Travel Agency Air Ticket Sales for November 3.4% Over 2022

Los Cabos Top Hotel Destination for Christmas, New Year's: Stats

USTOA Survey Shows a Positive Outlook for 2024