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AAA: Record 7.5 Million Travelers Will Fly for the Holidays

crowds at airport

A record number of Americans will fly this holiday season, despite rising travel costs.

Roughly 7.5 million people will choose air travel to reach their holiday destinations, AAA reported Monday (Dec. 11) in its annual holiday travel survey.

That figure surpasses the record set in 2019 of 7.3 million travelers, and comes during what the motor club federation says will be the second-busiest travel season in more than 20 years, with 115.2 million people expected to head home (or leave home) for the holidays.

“This year-end holiday forecast, with an additional 2.5 million travelers compared to last year, mirrors what AAA Travel has been observing throughout 2023,” said Paula Twidale, senior vice president of AAA Travel. “More Americans are investing in travel, despite the cost, to make memories with loved ones and experience new places.”

Most of those travelers will be on the road, with AAA anticipating that almost 104 million people will drive to their destination, a 1.8% increase over last year, and the second highest number since 2019.

“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,” AAA said.

Tickets for air travel are slightly lower than last year, AAA said, with the average price for a roundtrip ticket to Orlando this holiday season being $613, compared to $735 last year. And a roundtrip ticket to Las Vegas is $508 now, down from $705 in 2022.

The number of people expected to travel by other means — train, bus, cruise ship — is up as well, at 4 million, compared to 3.6 million last year.

Americans’ continued interest in travel despite the cost has been reflected in a recent study by Visa, as well as research from PYMNTS Intelligence and i2c that shows that consumers prioritizing travel even in the midst of economic uncertainty.

“This trend applies to all generations, but it’s Gen X and millennial consumers who are driving the surge in travel expenses,” PYMNTS wrote recently. “Furthermore, rising inflation and high costs have pushed some individuals to defer their travel payments by using credit options, or alternatively adjusting their plans to still enjoy their holidays.”

According to “The Credit Economy: How Consumers Financed Their Summer Travel,” the number of leisure travelers rose by 22% from 2022 to this year. This increase was fueled mainly by Generation X and millennials, who made up a respective 31% and 28% of this spending.