by Loren G. Edelstein | December 19, 2017

'Tis the season to spend with family and friends, and this year Americans will travel in record numbers to do so. AAA forecasts 107.3 million Americans will take to planes, trains, automobiles and other modes of transportation during the year-end holiday period, from Saturday, Dec. 23, through Monday, Jan. 1. 

This will be the highest year-end travel volume on record and a 3.1 percent increase vs. last year, marking the ninth consecutive year of rising year-end holiday travel. Since 2005, total year-end holiday travel volume has grown by 21.6 million, an increase of more than 25 percent.
"More expensive gas prices are not swaying holiday revelers to stay home," said Bill Sutherland, AAA senior vice president of travel and publishing. "In fact, across the board this year, travel has increased year-over-year for every major holiday weekend - Memorial Day, Independence Day, Thanksgiving - and we project the same for the year-end holiday period. We've seen the strong economy and growing consumer confidence fuel holiday travel all year long."
For the 97.4 million Americans traveling by automobile, travel times during the holiday week could be as much as three times longer than the normal trip, according to INRIX, a global transportation analytics company, in collaboration with AAA.
Based on historical and recent travel trends, INRIX expects drivers will experience the greatest amount of congestion before the holiday week - on Wednesday, Dec. 20, and Thursday, Dec. 21 - in the late afternoon, as commuters leave work early and mix with holiday travelers. For example, drivers in New York City could see travel times peak at three times a normal trip between 3:30 and 5:30 p.m.
"With record-level travelers hitting the road this holiday, drivers must be prepared for delays in major metros," said Dr. Graham Cookson, chief economist and head of research at INRIX. "Our advice to drivers is to avoid peak times altogether or consider alternative routes."
Following is INRIX's breakdown of anticipated delays for automobile travel in 10 major cities. Click on the chart to enlarge it.




Travelers should try to avoid traveling through major cities during peak travel times, AAA advises. The best times to leave are typically early morning or after the morning commute, because the roads should be less crowded and you will have more time to get to your destination safely. If your schedule permits, traveling on the holiday itself often results in fewer cars on the road.