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Demand Continues to Drive Year-End Holiday Travel

A strong desire to travel has been driving holiday travel volume all year and the end of the year holiday travel season is no exception. Airports will be especially busy this year with record-breaking numbers.Ohio - All Travelers.png

“If there is one thing we have seen at AAA throughout the year, it is pent-up demand for travel. Whether people are hitting the road for a visit with friends and family, or planning a more significant getaway, there is little discouraging them,” said Kara Hitchens, public affairs manager, AAA Club Alliance.

AAA expects both the roads and the airports to be extremely busy from December 23 through New Year’s Day, as they have been over most holiday weekends this year.

Nationally, AAA projects 115.2 million travelers will head 50 miles or more from home over the 10-day year-end holiday travel period. This year’s total number of travelers is a 2.2% increase over last year and the second highest year-end travel forecast since 2000 when AAA began tracking holiday travel.

In Ohio, AAA projects 4.7 million Ohioans will travel over the 10-day year-end holiday travel period. That’s a 2.6% increase over last year. This is the second highest travel season behind 2019.

Ohio - Drive.pngRoad travel

Most holiday travelers are going by car as AAA expects nearly 104 million people will drive to their holiday destinations, an increase of 1.8% compared to 2022. Locally, it is expected that 4.3 million Ohioans will drive.

Airline travel

AAA projects 7.5 million air travelers across the country this holiday season, surpassing 2019’s record of 7.3 million passengers. In Ohio, that number is up also this year. Nearly 270,000 people will fly for the holiday, making it the busiest travel year since AAA began keeping track.

A closer look at Ohio’s metro areas reveals lots of traffic on the road and in the air.

Columbus Metro Area (Franklin, Delaware, Licking, Madison, Pickaway, Fairfield)

  • TOTAL Auto, Air & Other                  820,330
  • Columbus Metro Area Auto             744,484
  • Columbus Metro Area Air                  45,907
  • Columbus Metro Other                      29,939 (train, bus, cruise, etc.)    

Dayton Metro Area (Montgomery, Miami, Greene, Clark)

  • TOTAL Auto, Air & Other 389,392
  • Dayton Metro Area Auto               353,390
  • Dayton Metro Area Air                    21,791
  • Dayton Metro Other                        14,211 (train, bus, cruise, etc.)                 

Toledo Metro Area (Fulton, Lucas, Ottawa, Wood)

  • TOTAL Auto, Air & Other                  263,198
  • Toledo Metro Area Auto                  238,863
  • Toledo Metro Area Air                       14,729
  • Toledo Metro Other                             9,606 (train, bus, cruise, etc.)

Gas Prices

The national gas price average has been trending downward for the better part of three months now with prices are hovering around $3.10. In Ohio, price averages are even lower, hovering around $2.75

“As we close out 2023, holiday motorists are getting the gift of lower prices at the pump,” Hitchens said.

Money Saving Tips

Those planning to travel on the Ohio Turnpike, can save time and money by using the E-ZPass program. Drivers can visit one of AAA locations across the state to purchase an E-ZPass Transponder. Travelers can save an average of 30 percent on their Ohio Turnpike toll with E-ZPass.

AAA Travel Offers Six Tips To Increase Safety And Reduce Stress:

  1. Work with a Trusted Travel Advisor – Given the potential for shifting travel restrictions in the wake of COVID-19, AAA strongly recommends working with a travel advisor who can help navigate any issues that may arise, and advise as to the best, safest options. AAA travel advisors are on hand at all AAA Retail locations.
  2. Book a Vehicle Checkup today – Whether driving to your year-end destination or driving to the airport, basic vehicle maintenance reduces your risk of a breakdown or battery failure. AAA will be busy providing Emergency Roadside Service to hundreds of thousands of Members forced to rethink their holiday plans because of a breakdown. This is an extremely busy time of year at AAA Car Centers and AAA Approved Auto Repair facilities as vehicle owners ready their cars for winter. Make an appointment today for a bumper-to-bumper vehicle ‘check-up’ which may not be available if you wait until the last minute. 
  3. Expect Delays and Plan Accordingly – Whether you are planning to drive or fly to your holiday destination, give yourself extra time. Drivers should travel at off-peak times if possible. Flyers should get to the airport at least two hours prior to their flights if traveling domestically, three hours if traveling internationally.
  4. Consider Travel Insurance – Travel insurance is relatively inexpensive for the peace of mind it provides in return but policies differ. AAA recommends insurance that allows travelers to ‘cancel for any reason.’ A recent AAA survey found that about a third of all travelers are more likely to consider purchasing travel insurance specifically because of the pandemic.
  5. Download the airline’s app. Flyers will get up-to-date information on flight status – any delays, cancellations and even gate changes.
  6. Take additional precautions – Drivers should make sure their AAA Membership is up to date so what could be a minor inconvenience does not become a major disruption to their holiday plans.

“Imagine waking up early to catch a flight only to discover your car does not start, or experiencing a breakdown while traveling a busy highway with a car full of kids,” Hitchens said. “Always travel with a fully-charged cellphone and program the AAA call center number or download the app so you will know who to contact in the event of a roadside emergency.”

But if plans to go awry, AAA urges patience.

In 2022 over the holiday period, AAA responded to more than 900,000 Members across the country, including more than 42,000 in Ohio. While the majority of calls were for dead batteries and flat tires, thousands more called AAA for help because they had locked themselves out of their vehicles. “Making sure your car is road-ready before you go is essential, and sometimes slowing down can actually save you time in the long run,” Hitchens said.

Move Over Law

AAA reminds drivers that Move Over laws exist in all 50 states. AAA and other traffic safety advocates have been instrumental in the passage of laws to better protect tow truck drivers, road construction workers and other first responders.  

Ohio’s current Move Over law requires motorists to:

  • Stop when coming from any direction and approaching any moving authorized emergency vehicle using red or amber visual signals/lights.
  • Move over and slow down when passing any vehicle displaying amber or yellow flashing signals/lights.

Safety Recommendations for Drivers

  • Remain alert, avoid distractions and focus on the task of driving.
  • Keep an eye out for situations where emergency vehicles, tow trucks, utility service vehicles or disabled vehicles are stopped on the side of the road.
  • When you see these situations, slow down and if possible move one lane over and away from the people and vehicles stopped at the side of the road.

‘Slow Down, Move Over’ is an important message for drivers year-round, and especially at night.  Data from the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety shows that more than 75% of roadside deaths occur after dark.

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