The holidays are upon us as we're in the final stretch of 2022. So, if you're one of the nearly 113 million Americans who will travel more than 50 miles to gather with friends and family this year, you're going to want to plan ahead, as this year, the weather could have a significant impact on your schedule.
Not only will we see an increase in the number of people who are driving and flying this year, but the FOX Forecast Center is keeping its eyes on the likelihood of a significant Christmas week winter storm that could impact millions of travelers.
FILE-People walk near a Christmas tree inside the Washington Reagan National Airport (DCA) on December 18, 2020 in Arlington, Virginia. (DANIEL SLIM/AFP via Getty Images)
AAA expects an increase of about 3.6 million people traveling this year versus in 2021, and that number is closing in on pre-pandemic levels.
In fact, 2022 is expected to be the third-busiest year for holiday travel since AAA began keeping track in 2000.
Planes, Trains and Automobiles
Share of Holiday Travelers by Mode
Despite the roller coaster gas prices that we saw in 2022, the number of people who will drive to their holiday destinations is expected to rise about 2 million over 2021 levels, according to AAA.
"About 2% (more) compared to last year," said AAA spokesperson Robert Sinclair. "We're not yet back to the total number of travelers that pre-pandemic records in 2019, when 119 million traveled. But we're getting back there."
Traveling by car is on par with the number in 2018 but shy of 2019, when 108 million Americans drove out of town over the holidays.
But there are some interesting modes of transportation that will see a significant jump over last year.
"What's most striking is the number in the other category that are traveling by train, bus and cruise," Sinclair said. "That's up 23% compared to last year, with the bulk of that increase happening in cruising. Cruising has come back in a big way. People like the one-price aspect. You pay upfront to get your drinks and your meals included. You know exactly what you're going to pay."
Number of Holiday Travelers By Mode
AAA says air travel is expected to see an increase of about 14% over 2021, with nearly 7.2 million Americans expected to catch a flight out of town over the holidays.
Demand for air travel has skyrocketed, and people should be aware that airports and flights will be packed. AAA expects the number of people catching a flight will come close to matching pre-pandemic levels in 2019, when 7.3 million Americans traveled by air.
Christmas week winter storm could have nightmare effect on travel
Forecast details for this winter storm are now coming into focus. A far-reaching, highly impactful storm system will affect millions of people starting Wednesday, with peak impacts expected from Thursday through early Saturday (Christmas Eve).
"It is going to be mainly those of you in the Upper Midwest," FOX Weather meteorologist Jason Frazer said. "We're talking about places like Milwaukee and Green Bay (Wisconsin) that have a good chance of seeing some significant snow."
And this winter storm will likely have a significant effect on travel.
"It could be very, very difficult indeed," Sinclair said. "We're anticipating hundreds of thousands of breakdowns during the year-end holiday travel period. You throw in a bad snowstorm into that, and it really wreaks havoc."
Sinclair said about half of all bad weather-related crashes occur during one season – winter. And it's upwards of about 2,000 fatalities and more than 500,000 injuries because of snow and ice.
"Drivers really need to slow it down," he said. "Just take it easy. And really, the best advice is if you can stay home during such inclement weather, do so."