AAA: Away from Home for the Holidays

AAA expects 2022 to be third-busiest year for holiday travel with 113 million Americans including 1.6 million Oregonians heading out for the holidays

Updated December 23, 2022

PORTLAND, Ore., – AAA projects 112.7 million Americans (33.8% of the population) will travel for the Christmas and New Year holidays. This is up 3.3% from 2021 and closing in on pre-pandemic numbers. About 1.6 million Oregonians will pack their sleighs for a holiday trip. 2022 is expected to be the third-busiest year for holiday travel since AAA began tracking in 2000, only trailing 2019 and 2018.

While about 90% of travelers will drive to their holiday destinations, air travel is seeing a jump this year, up 14% compared to 2021. The holiday travel period is defined as Friday, December. 23 through Monday, January 2.

“With Christmas Day and New Year’s Day falling on Sundays, many are taking long weekends to celebrate the holidays. And with hybrid work schedules, we’re seeing more flexibility with the days people are traveling because they can work remotely at their destinations,” says Doreen Loofburrow, senior vice president of travel for AAA Oregon/Idaho.

“Despite roller coaster gas prices and a bumpy year for flights, people are ready to wrap up the year with a holiday trip. This will be one of the busiest times for holiday travel in the last two decades. Travelers should expect busy roads and crowded airports this holiday season,” says Marie Dodds, public affairs director for AAA Oregon/Idaho.

Holiday Travel Forecast 2022 total year-end travelers

Holiday Travel Forecast 2022 travel by mode

Most will travel by car

AAA projects nearly 102 million Americans (90.4% of travelers) will drive to their holiday destination. This is up 2% compared to 2021. Travel by car this year is on par with 2018 but shy of 2019 when 108 million Americans drove out of town for the holidays, the highest year on record.

In Oregon, roughly 1.4 million will drive.

Air travel increases despite higher ticket prices

Holiday air travel will rise by 14% this year with nearly 7.2 million Americans flying to their holiday destinations. 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.

Approximately 151,000 Oregonians will travel by air. In all, 6.4% of holiday travelers will fly to their destinations.

Air travel costs more this holiday season. AAA finds that the average lowest airfare during the week of Christmas is 6% more than last year coming in at $163 for major U.S. destinations.

Those wanting to book last-minute travel may find good fares, but availability will be limited.

AAA has advice for air travelers:

  • Winter weather is bearing down on much of the country this week. If you have flexibility in your travel plans, NOW is the time to rebook. Waiting until flights start being canceled is too late, and there’s likely not enough capacity to accommodate last-minute changes.
  • Book the first flight of the day or early morning flights if you can. They are less likely to be cancelled or delayed.
  • Try not to book tight connecting flights – you’ll want enough time to change flights in case your originating flight is late.
  • If possible, avoid airports for connecting flights where winter weather can lead to delays, including Chicago O’Hare, Newark Liberty, LaGuardia, Denver, and JFK.
  • If you really need to be at your destination on a certain day, book flights a day or two early so that you have a buffer.
  • Download the airline’s app on your phone and set it up for push notifications so that you’ll be notified about departure and arrival information as well as any flight changes, delays or cancellations. FlightAware and other sites let you track your incoming flight so you can find other options if that flight is late or cancelled.
  • Get to the airport early – at least two hours before domestic flights and three hours before international flights. The increase in travelers along with potential staffing shortages can make for long wait times to get through security.
  • If you need to park at the airport, book a parking spot in advance or at least check on availability before you go. Better yet, take transit, use a ride sharing service, or get a ride from a friend to the airport.
  • Carry your bags on your flight instead of checking them. If you do need to check bags, bring medications, a change of clothes, comfortable shoes, and any other necessary items in your carry on bag in case your flight is cancelled after you check your bag, or your bag gets lost. Make sure your bags have name tags, and also put your name and contact info inside each bag.
  • Bring a refillable water bottle and snacks since some airports and flights still have reduced meal and beverage service. Many airlines allow you to pre-order food up to 24 hours before your flight. The TSA allows solid foods through screening but liquids or gels (such as yogurt) must comply with the 3-1-1 liquids rule.
  • Consider signing up for TSA PreCheck, Global Entry and/or CLEAR to expedite the security screening process. Do make sure the airports you use offer CLEAR as it’s not available at all airports.
  • If your flight is canceled by the airline or there are significant delays, they will try to accommodate you on a later flight; however, you are entitled to a full refund under federal law.
  • Know your rights as an air passenger and review your airline’s contract of carriage for information on their policies for flight delays, cancellations and rebooking. By law, travelers are entitled to a refund when an airline cancels their flight.
  • Don’t book more than one flight. Duplicate bookings will not only cost the consumer a non-refundable ticket, but also could cause both flights to cancel. Many carriers have algorithms in place to spot dupes and cancel both itineraries which could leave travelers with no flights at all.

Travel by bus, train and cruise rebound

Travel by other modes, including buses, trains, and cruises, will rise to nearly 3.7 million, an increase of 23% from 2021. This is nearly 94% of the volume in 2019. In all, about 3.2% of all travelers will go by these modes.

Roughly 47,000 Oregonians will travel by these modes this year.

Gas Prices Similar to Last Year

Those who hit the road for the holidays will find gas prices that are close to last year’s prices.

The current (as of Dec. 22) national average for regular unleaded is $3.10 and the Oregon average is $3.78. Find current prices at  https://gasprices.aaa.com/

Holiday Travel Forecast 2022 gas prices

AAA members can fill up for less at Shell stations when they join the Fuel Rewards® program at AAA.com/Shell. Save 30¢/gal on your first fill-up at Shell when you join the Fuel Rewards® program by 12/31/23 and make your first transaction within 30 days of joining. After that, save 5¢/gal every day on each individual fill-up of up to 20 gallons from participating Shell stations.

Peak traffic expected Dec. 23, 27, 28 and Jan. 2

Travelers can expect the busiest roads on Dec. 23, 27 and 28 and on Jan. 2. Delays will be the longest in the afternoons and evenings, especially in urban areas, as travelers mix with commuters. Some metro areas across the U.S. could see more than double the delays versus typical drive times, and larger urban areas could experience three times the normal delays.

“Knowing the busiest drive times can help you avoid the stress of being stuck in stop-and-go traffic,” says Dodds.

Holiday Travel Forecast 2022 best and worst times to travel by car

Top holiday destinations

These are the trending destinations for domestic and international travel for members of AAA Oregon/Idaho based on bookings by our AAA travel agents and at AAA.com.

  1. Maui, HI
  2. Anaheim, CA
  3. Oahu, HI
  4. Las Vegas, NV
  5. Phoenix, AZ
  6. Cabo San Lucas, Mexico
  7. San Diego, CA
  8. Orlando, FL
  9. Fort Lauderdale, FL
  10. Cancun, Mexico

These are the top regional destinations for members of AAA Oregon/Idaho based on bookings by our AAA travel agents and on AAA.com

  1. Bend, OR
  2. Seattle, WA
  3. Lincoln City, OR
  4. Medford/Ashland/Central Point, OR
  5. Redding, CA
  6. San Francisco, CA
  7. Boise, ID
  8. Sacramento, CA
  9. Newport, OR
  10. Salt Lake City, UT

Hotels cost more, rental cars cost less

According to AAA’s Leisure Travel Index, rates for AAA Three Diamond Rated lodgings are up 5% for the holidays to an average of $167 per night up from $160 a year ago.

The average rate for a AAA Two Diamond Rated hotel is up 2% with an average nightly cost of $144 up from $142 last year.

Daily car rental rates are down 19% to $105 down from $130 last year.

 What to know before you go – AAA tips for holiday travelers

  • Book your flights, lodging, camping, rental car and activities in advance. High demand, limited capacity and staffing shortages mean last-minute availability can be greatly reduced.
  • Check on the cleaning standards. When booking a place to stay, look for accommodations that prioritize cleanliness and have implemented additional housekeeping standards since the start of the pandemic. Last year, as part of its Diamond designation, AAA enhanced its housekeeping evaluation to include objective, scientific validation of the cleanliness of common surfaces throughout hotels. Hotels that meet these new standards are now recognized as Inspected Clean and a current listing can be found here.
  • Take all necessary travel documentation, including health insurance cards.
  • Consider working with a travel agent to help plan your trip. They can help you plan the trip that meets your needs and comfort level this holiday season, provide the best value for your vacation dollars, explore travel insurance options, assist with any last-minute changes to travel plans, and act as an advocate if the unexpected happens.
  • Travel insurance. AAA highly recommends travel insurance to cover unexpected delays or trip interruptions. It is best to consult the expertise of a travel agent who can guide you on the coverage options available for your specific trip, including if your destination requires visitors to carry travel insurance.
  • Get your car road-trip ready. Breakdowns are always a hassle, and you don’t want to be stranded during the holidays. Find a trusted mechanic nearby at AAA.com/repair.

AAA to the Rescue 

Before you head out on a holiday road trip, be sure your vehicle is ready to avoid a breakdown along the way. AAA expects to respond to 900,000 calls including 14,000 Oregonians at the roadside over the holidays. Dead batteries, lockouts and flat tires are the top three issues.

AAA makes it easy to request assistance – by phone (800-222-HELP), app or online – and members can track the service technician’s progress as they make their way to your vehicle.

Before any long trip, AAA suggests getting an inspection to check key components such as the battery, fuel system, tires, brakes and fluid levels. Have your vehicle inspected by a trusted repair shop, such as one of the 7,000 AAA Approved Auto Repair facilities across North America.

Be sure that your vehicle and passengers are ready for winter driving conditions. This includes having proper traction—snow tires, chains and/or tire socks—and an emergency kit in your vehicle. Also bring warm clothing as well as water and snacks in case you get stranded. Find all the info and tips at AAA.com/winterprep.

Holiday Travel Forecast 2022

Forecast Methodology

In cooperation with AAA, S&P Global Market Intelligence developed a unique methodology to forecast actual domestic travel volumes. The economic variables used to forecast travel for the current holiday are leveraged from S&P Global Market Intelligence’s proprietary databases. These data include macroeconomic drivers such as employment, output, household net worth, asset prices, including stock indices, interest rates, housing market indicators, and variables related to travel and tourism, including gasoline prices, airline travel, and hotel stays. AAA and S&P Global Market Intelligence have quantified holiday travel volumes going back to 2000.

Historical travel volume estimates come from DK SHIFFLET’s TRAVEL PERFORMANCE/Monitorsm. The PERFORMANCE/Monitorsm is a comprehensive study measuring the travel behavior of U.S. residents. DK SHIFFLET contacts over 50,000 U.S. households each month to obtain detailed travel data, resulting in the unique ability to estimate visitor volume and spending, identify trends and forecast U.S. travel behavior.

The travel forecast is reported in person-trips. In particular, AAA and IHS Markit forecast the total U.S. holiday travel volume and expected mode of transportation.

About AAA

Started in 1902 by automotive enthusiasts who wanted to chart a path for better roads in America and advocate for safe mobility, AAA has transformed into one of North America’s largest membership organizations. Today, AAA provides roadside assistance, travel, discounts, financial and insurance services to enhance the life journey of 62 million members across North America, including 56 million in the United States. Drivers can request roadside assistance, identify nearby gas prices, locate discounts, book a hotel or map a route via the AAA Mobile app. To join, visit AAA.com.

Find current fuel prices at GasPrices.AAA.com.

AAA news releases, high resolution images, broadcast-quality video, fact sheets and podcasts are available on the AAA NewsRoom at NewsRoom.AAA.com.

Find local news releases at https://oregon.aaa.com/community/media/media-contacts.html

Fuel prices are updated daily at AAA’s Daily Fuel Gauge at AAA Gas Prices. For more info go www.AAA.com.  AAA Oregon/Idaho provides more than 850,000 members with travel, insurance, financial and automotive-related services, and is an affiliate of AAA National, serving more than 62 million members in North America.