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Floridians will travel in record numbers for the holidays

Floridians will travel in record numbers for the holidays
Floridians will travel in record numbers for the holidays 02:40

MIAMI - More Americans are expected to fly or drive far from home over Christmas than did last year, but they are not expected to match the pre-pandemic record for holiday travel.

Auto club AAA forecast Monday that 115.2 million people will go 50 miles or more from home during the 10 days between December 23rd and New Year's Day.

That's 2.2 percent more than AAA predicted during the comparable stretch last year but about 3 percent less than 2019, the last Christmas before COVID-19 hit the United States.

"What we're seeing is that travel demand has been off the charts all of 2023, and this holiday season is no different. We're also expecting this to be the busiest holiday at the airports," said AAA spokeswoman Aixa Diaz.

In Florida, AAA is predicting a record-setting 6.6 million residents will travel 50 miles or more. They're expecting nearly 218,000 (3.4 percent) more Florida travelers than last year (the previous record high), which does not include visitors from out of state.

"If you are planning on traveling somewhere, you should definitely expect to see more crowds, both congestion on the roads and longer lines at the airports," said AAA Spokesman Mark Jenkins.

"Despite various inflationary pressures, Americans are still willing to budget for travel. With a record number of travelers, the roads, airports, and cruise lines will be more crowded than normal. So finalize your travel plans now, anticipate longer lines, and give yourself extra time to get to your destination," said Debbie Haas, Vice President of Travel for AAA.

The auto club said most of the travel will take place on the roads.

"More than 6 million people will drive to their holiday destinations, an increase of 181,000 compared to 2022. 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 Florida average on Christmas Day and New Year's Day was $2.99 and $3.24, respectively." according to AAA.

Dominick Maluso will drive from South Florida to New York for the holidays. "You don't want to hit the metro areas traffic at peak times," he warns.

He has a plan to avoid traffic. "I try to leave super early. I try to leave at 4:30 in the morning, just get on the road as quickly as possible, try to make a couple of pit stops and drive straight through," he said.

Saturday, December 23, and Thursday, December 28, will be the most congested days on the road, according to INRIX, a provider of transportation data and insights. The best times to hit the road are before lunch or after 7 p.m.

AAA released the following: 

Best and Worst Times to Travel by Car


Worst Travel Time

Best Travel Time

Saturday, Dec 23

11:00 AM - 7:00 PM

Before 10:00 AM

Sunday, Dec 24

Minimal Travel Expected

Monday, Dec 25

Minimal Travel Expected

Tuesday, Dec 26

1:00 - 5:00 PM

Before 12:00 PM

Wednesday, Dec 27

1:00 - 7:00 PM

Before 12:00 PM

Thursday, Dec 28

2:00 - 8:00 PM

Before 12:00 PM

Friday, Dec 29

2:00 - 8:00 PM

Before 12:00 PM

Saturday, Dec 30

5:00 - 7:00 PM

Before 12:00 PM

Sunday, Dec 31

Minimal Travel Expected

Monday, Jan 01

Minimal Travel Expected

Nearly 357,000 Floridians are expected to hop a flight to their destination. While that is 15,000 more than last year, it's the second highest air travel volume on record, behind 2003 (399,000), according to AAA.

People will also travel by bus and train or hop on a cruise ship for the holidays.

At South Florida airports, Miami International is expecting record numbers of flyers. The prediction is at least 2.5% higher than last year.  At FLL they're expecting more than 2 million passengers. Up  14% from last year. "You're going to feel it in the terminals and you're going to feel it on the roadways," said FLL spokesperson Arlene Satchell. 

They're already expecting very busy roadways for drop off and pick and say you should be ready for sold out garages, suggesting "to allocate sufficient time so that they come to the airport, they're not just going to slide into a space, that's highly unlikely. They're going to be spending time looking for an empty space. 

People will also travel by bus and train or hop on a cruise ship for the holidays.

"AAA expects more than 4 million Americans will take alternative transportation over Christmas and New Year's compared to 3.66 million in 2022 and 3.89 million in 2019. Demand for cruises has skyrocketed post-pandemic, and the industry is now preparing for the wave of bookings that traditionally happens at the start of the new year," according to the auto club's website.

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