Burl Ives sings that it is “the best time of the year,” but that may not be so if you are one of the expected 115.2 million people expected to travel more than 50 miles during the 10-day holiday period — nearly a record.
That may seem like a lot of people as the total population is about 330 million, but it’s a 2.2% increase compared to last year. However, it’s well off the record of 119 million from 2019, AAA reports. Perhaps more importantly, about 104 million of those folks will be clogging Americas highways and byways. It’s also second to 2019’s 108 million people.
“This year-end holiday forecast, with an additional 2.5 million travelers compared to last year, mirrors what AAA Travel has been observing throughout 2023,” said Paula Twidale, senior vice president of AAA Travel. “More Americans are investing in travel, despite the cost, to make memories with loved ones and experience new places.”
People on the move
What’s driving — pun slightly intended — so many to take to U.S. roads? U.S. airports, which are expected to be filled to new record levels so driving their makes sense for most Americans.
One of the big reasons is the fact that gas prices are expected to be about the same as this time last year, which is between $3.10 and $3.20 a gallon, AAA officials say. But not everyone agrees — some believe prices will drop further down into the $3.05 per gallon range and maybe lower.
Prices have been on the decline for months now, but that slide is expected to level out for the holiday season as demand increases and an OPEC-led reduction in production will occur. Some of that cut will be offset by an expected uptick in U.S production.
“For the 12th straight week, or three straight months, the national average has continued to decline, now at its lowest level of 2023 heading into the prime of the holiday season as oil prices continue to struggle amidst cooling demand,” said Patrick De Haan, head of petroleum analysis at GasBuddy.
“With nearly 80,000 gas stations in the U.S. now priced below $3 per gallon, and 23 states also seeing average prices of $2.99 or less, motorists are getting substantial relief at the pump in time for the holidays. The trend is likely to continue in most states this week, while the national average could soon fall below $3.05 per gallon, the lowest since 2021. The good news may continue into 2024, with GasBuddy’s annual Fuel Outlook being released in just a few weeks.”
Where to be
You may not get to choose where you’re headed for the holidays this year, but if you have a choice between Tucson, Arizona and Minneapolis, Minnesota — pick the latter as it finished atop the top 10 cities with the least aggressive holiday drivers
GasBuddy.com created a Naughty and Nice List for the holiday season based on study showing U.S. drivers up to 48% more aggressive while behind the wheel during the season of goodwill toward men … and women.
Tucson topped the naughty list, followed by Nashville, Orlando, Jacksonville, New Orleans, Richmond (Virginia), Salt Lake City, Buffalo (New York), Memphis (Tennessee) and Oklahoma City. The nice list saw Minneapolis on top. The rest of the group included: Providence, Rhode Island; Portland, Oregon; Seattle; Cleveland; Norfolk, Virginia; Hartford, Connecticut; Las Vegas; Rochester, New York; and Columbus, Ohio.
“Driving during the holiday season can be stressful, but it’s important to remember to stay calm and courteous on the road,” said Patrick DeHaan, head of petroleum analysis at GasBuddy. “Additionally, aggressive driving can negatively impact fuel efficiency, causing drivers to waste money that could be spent on holiday celebrations or gifts for loved ones.”