More than 107 million Americans are expected to travel 50 miles or more beginning Saturday to Jan. 1, a new record according to AAA. This is the ninth consecutive year the number of travelers has risen.
The majority — 91 percent — will travel by automobile. Nearly 3 million Georgians will be in that group of motorists.
INRIX, a global transportation analytics company, along with AAA, predicts the worst time to travel through Atlanta is Thursday from 4:30-6:30 p.m. Trips through the city may take one-and-a-half times longer than usual. AAA recommends departing prior to or after morning commute hours. It said traveling on the holiday itself often results in fewer cars on the road as well.
“With record-level travelers hitting the road this holiday, drivers must be prepared for delays in major metros,” says Dr. Graham Cookson, chief economist & head of research at INRIX. “Our advice to drivers is to avoid peak times altogether or consider alternative routes.”
Those traveling by automobile won’t just feel inconvenienced by the traffic. They’ll also take a hit to the wallet. This December’s national average price is $2.47, or 28 cents more than last December. AAA expects the average to drop at least five cents by year-end. Car rental rates are also more expensive. At $74 per day, the average rate increased 11 percent; although, those price increases may not concern some travelers.
“Overall, our research shows that Americans are doing better than last year and want to go somewhere for the holidays,” said Vicky Evans, Assistant Vice President, AAA Travel. “Whether they are going home or visiting a new destination, Americans have more money to finance their travel plans, thanks to a stronger economy and growing consumer confidence.”
Air travelers will see the most savings with flights nearly 20 percent cheaper than last year. At $165, the average end of year holiday airfare for a round-trip flight is at a five-year low, according to AAA’s Leisure Travel Index. On average, this year’s airfares are 5 percent cheaper than 2016.
While flights may be cheaper, the Transportation Security Administration has made recent changes that could affect travel times.
Last week, TSA made stricter requirements for carry on items across the country. Passengers will now be required to place all electronic items larger than a cell phone and any edible items in individual bins. These new requirements may cause a longer screening process for travelers.
Augusta Regional Airport asks all passengers arrive a minimum of two hours prior to their scheduled departure time. The airport will not have extra employees on hand for holiday travel, according to Lauren Smith, communications manager with the airport. She said all flights through Dec. 26 are full and no additional ones have been scheduled for the Augusta market due to the holiday season.
She recommended passengers being prepared and know what items can be carried on to help speed up security screenings.
AAA expects to rescue 901,600 motorists from lockouts, flat tires and car-battery issues during the holiday travel period. It recommends having an inspection completed before traveling to be road-trip ready. The auto club group’s projections are based on economic forecasting and research by IHS Markit.