A record 103 million people nationwide plan to travel for the upcoming Christmas and New Year’s holidays, according to AAA, so those heading to see family and friends this week and next will have plenty of company.
The number of Americans who said they plan to travel at least 50 miles between Friday and January 2 is the highest number since AAA began tracking holiday travel statistics, and an increase of nearly 2 percent over last year.
Because Christmas Day and New Year’s Day fall on Sundays this year, the holiday travel period is a bit shorter than it has been in other years, but that doesn’t appear to be putting a damper on people’s plans.
Most travelers, about 93.6 million or 91 percent, will head to their destinations by car, up 1.5 percent from last year. Another 6 million, or 6 percent, will fly, up 2.5 percent from last year, and another 3.5 million will go by train, bus, or another mode of transportation.
Those hitting the road will see higher gas prices than they did this time last year. On Monday, Connecticut drivers paid an average of $2.38 a gallon for regular gas, up 20 cents from a year ago. Nationwide, drivers paid an average of $2.24 a gallon for regular gas Monday, up 24 cents from last year at this time.
While gas prices are higher than they were last year, they are still relatively low from a historical perspective.
For those planning to travel in the region by train, Metro-North Railroad will be running on a special schedule.
On Friday, Metro-North will start running extra trains leaving Grand Central around 1 p.m. Also on that day, some evening trains may be cancelled or combined because of low ridership.
On Saturday, Christmas Eve, the trains will run on a regular Saturday schedule, and on Christmas Day they will be on a regular Sunday schedule. Since Christmas is on a Sunday and many businesses will observe the holiday on Monday, Metro-North will run on a Saturday schedule Dec. 26 with some additional “Shoppers’ Specials” trains.
Metro-North will run its early getaway service on Friday, Dec. 30 and will operate on a special schedule on New Year’s Eve.
Those flying to their destinations are expected to spend an average of $204 round-trip for the 40 most popular domestic routes, AAA’s survey found. Rates for AAA Two- and Three-Diamond Rated hotels will cost 7 percent more than last year, at an average of $128 a night and $160 a night, respectively. Car rental rates are expected be $66 a day, on average, slightly lower than last year.
AAA’s projections are based on economic forecasts and research by London-based IHS Markit, which has partnered with AAA since 2009 to analyze travel trends during major holidays.