Americans who had to cancel getaways and get-togethers last year are making up for lost time this holiday season.
AAA projects more than 109 million people — an almost 34% increase from 2020 — will travel 50 miles or more between Thursday, Dec. 23, and Sunday, Jan. 2.
That dramatic bounce-back — 27.7 million more people traveling — will bring this year’s numbers to 92% of 2019 levels. Airlines will see a 184% increase from last year.
“It’s encouraging to see so many more people are preparing to travel for the holidays this year,” AAA East Central Senior Vice President Bevi Powell said in a statement. “Americans are feeling more comfortable with making the choice to travel whether it’s for a long-awaited vacation or a trip home to see loved ones.”
Road trips remain the top mode of travel during the holidays, with over 100 million planning to head to their destinations in cars despite gas costing $1.25 per gallon more than a year ago. More than 6 million people are expected to travel by air, while 3 million people are booking buses, trains and cruises.
Most locations in the Altoona area are selling regular unleaded gasoline for $3.55 a gallon. The average price in the area at this time last year was $2.47 a gallon.
According to AAA, the worst times to travel before Christmas are between noon and 6 p.m. today (Thursday) and between 2 and 6 p.m Friday. The best times are after 7 p.m. today (Thursday) and before 1 p.m. Friday.
The worst times for New Year’s travel are between 1 and 7 p.m. Dec. 30 and between 2 and 4 p.m. New Year’s Eve. The best times are before noon Dec. 30 and before 1 p.m. and after 5 p.m. New Year’s Eve.
Travelers in the Altoona area shouldn’t encounter any significant weather problems on their Christmas travels.
“There will be some rain showers on Christmas Eve and periods of rain on Christmas Day, but people shouldn’t have any problems,” said AccuWeather meteorologist Paul Walker.
While Walker said it is too early to offer an accurate prediction for the days leading up to New Year’s Day, a storm is possible for the area.
Meanwhile, the Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission forecasts a robust holiday travel period with more than 5.4 million motorists traveling the turnpike today through Jan. 2.
“Our holiday traffic projections are coming close to matching those of 2019 with an increase of 40 percent over last year,” CEO Mark Compton said in a statement. “We have added resources to address any traffic and safety concerns due to the increase in traffic.”
Today is projected to be the heaviest day on the turnpike with 650,000 motorists followed by Dec. 29 and Dec. 30, with 625,000.
Holiday travelers should note that recent updates made to the 511PA traveler information service can alert them to specific information along their travel routes. Motorists can check roadway conditions, including color-coded winter conditions, by visiting www.511PA.com.
Mirror Staff Writer Walt Frank is at 814-946-7467.