AAA forecasts 3.5 million in Georgia will travel for year-end holidays

Record numbers of Georgians are expected to hit the roads over the next few weeks, as an estimated 3.5 million people in Georgia are planning to travel for Christmas and year-end holidays, according to a AAA forecast.

The vast majority of the people who travel for the holidays go by car. A record 3.2 million people will drive at least 50 miles for trips between Dec. 23 and Jan. 2, according to the AAA forecast conducted by S&P Global Market Intelligence. That’s up 2% from last year and 1% more than 2019, before the pandemic.

“Despite inflationary pressures, consumers remained resilient and dedicated to travel this year,” Debbie Haas, AAA’s vice president of travel, said in a written statement. “The good news is the cost for a holiday road trip will be less expensive than anticipated, now that gas prices are on the way down.”

The average price of gas in Georgia was $2.88 per gallon as of Sunday, down 27 cents from a year ago.

ExploreMetro Atlanta gas prices fall to lowest levels in more than a year

Credit: JOHN SPINK / AJC

Credit: JOHN SPINK / AJC

But some other travel costs are up, including air fares and hotel rooms.

Still, an estimated 184,212 people are expected to fly over the holiday period, up 14% from last year but still 1% shy of 2019 levels.

ExploreHoliday travel guide to Atlanta’s Hartsfield-Jackson Int’l Airport

Another 122,187 will travel by other modes such as train, bus or cruise ship.

Nationally, 112.7 million Americans are expected to travel during the year-end holiday period, up 3.6 million from last year but still short of pre-pandemic levels.

About 7.2 million Americans are expected to fly over the holidays this year across the country.

Heavy traffic will cause long lines at airports, AAA warned.

At Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport, the busiest day is likely to be the Friday before Christmas, according to the Transportation Security Administration.

To reduce the chance of delays at security checkpoints, TSA advises travelers to check their carry-on bags for prohibited items including guns and other weapons.

TSA said there have been 433 firearms caught at security checkpoints at the Atlanta airport so far this year. In 2021, the total was 507 firearms caught for the full year.

For some travelers, high air fares may have deterred them from booking flights. AAA said for shorter trips with multiple people, “it may be more cost-effective to drive rather than buy multiple air tickets and rent a car.”

For those taking to the road, the worst traffic and congestion on highways is expected to come on the afternoons of Dec. 23, 27, 28 and Jan. 2.