Holiday travel in Virginia is expect to approach some of the highest levels ever seen, and it doesn’t matter much what kind of transportation is involved. For the millions of Virginians who will travel by road, you will be paying some of the lowest gasoline prices in more than two years. More from WFIR’s Evan Jones:
AAA expects holiday air travel will set records, so plan accordingly — and cruises are way ahead of any previous numbers.
Here is the full AAA news release:
NEARLY 3.2 MILLION VIRGINIANS EXPECTED TO TRAVEL OVER YEAR-END HOLIDAY PERIOD
Ninety Percent of Virginia Travelers Will Hit the Road as Gas Drops Near Lowest Price in More Than Two Years
RICHMOND, VA (December 18, 2023) – There won’t be any other sleighs or tiny flying reindeer, but Santa is likely to find some busy skies as he makes his annual trip this holiday season. AAA estimates nearly 3.2 million Virginians will travel 50 miles or more away from home over the 10-day, end-of-year holiday travel period. That’s an increase of 2 percent compared to the 2022 travel volume but about 3 percent shy of the holiday period in 2019. It’ll mark the second highest year-end travel forecast for Virginia travelers since AAA began tracking in 2000. “AAA has seen a strong demand for travel throughout the year, and the end-of-year holiday is no exception,” said Morgan Dean, spokesperson for AAA Mid-Atlantic in Virginia. “Whether people are hitting the road to share the holiday with friends and family, or planning a more elaborate vacation, there is little discouraging them from getting away.”
Gas Prices ‘Sleighing’ It At The Pump
Ninety percent of Virginia travelers will be on the road this holiday season, or about 2.85 million people. That’s more than 1% higher than last year, but about 4% less than the number of travelers during the holidays in 2019. “It’s not under the tree, but drivers are finding a gift in the form of lower gas prices this holiday season,” add Dean.
Gas prices have been on the decline throughout the fall and Virginia drivers are finding some of the cheapest gas prices they’ve seen in more than two years.
Virginia’s average of $2.96 (12/17) is down 8 cents in a week, down 17 cents in a month and is six cents cheaper than one year ago. The state average has dropped within a penny of prices we haven’t seen at the pump since August of 2021.
Tepid demand and a low cost for oil, which is hovering around $70 per barrel are factors in the low prices. Drivers can find current gas prices along their route, and plan out stops where prices are the cheapest using the AAA TripTik Travel planner
Saturday December 23rd and Thursday, December 28th are expected to be the most congested days on the roads. Drivers looking to avoid traffic should leave in the morning on those days as traffic is expected to building up during the afternoon. December 30th, as some travelers depart for their New Year’s destinations, is also expected to see higher than usual traffic for a Saturday.
Away They All Flew like The Down Of A Thistle
As has been the theme during holidays throughout 2023, the airports and the skies are expected to be busy this holiday season. Nationally, the airports are expected to be the busiest they’ve ever been. More than 178,000 Virginians are expected to fly to their holiday destinations. That’s up more than 4% from last year, up 2% over 2019 and the highest number of Virginia air travelers at the year-end in 19 years.
I Saw Three Ships Come Sailing In
While making up only 5% of the total travel volume, the other category is seeing in the biggest increase in travelers compared to last year and to pre-covid numbers. Much of that increase is thanks to the return to cruising. Nearly 155,000 Virginians are predicted to travel by bus, train, or cruise for the holidays, up 15% over last year and up 13% over the 2019 numbers. It would be the second busiest year-end holiday Virginia has seen in the other category behind only the 2008 travel numbers.
“Many are opting to celebrate the holidays on the high seas, trading the snow, fraser fir, and Christmas lights for sand, palm trees and tropical sunsets.” adds Dean.
AAA’s National Travel Projections
Nationally, AAA forecasts:
- More than 115 million people are predicted to travel 50 miles or more from home this year for the holidays. That’s an increase of two percent from last year and the second highest year-end travel forecast since AAA began tracking in 2000.
- Nearly 104 million Americans are forecast to drive to their holiday destinations.
- 7.5 million Americans are predicted to fly this year, meaning airports will be the busiest they’ve ever been over the Christmas and New Year’s travel period.
- AAA estimates travel by bus, rail, and cruise ship will rise to more than 4 million this holiday season, a 10% increase from last year and 4% higher than 2019.
Be Ready – Busy Holiday Anticipated for AAA; Drivers Reminded of ‘Move Over ‘Laws
As you get ready for the holidays, whether you’re traveling or staying closer to home, AAA encourages drivers to ‘be ready’ for winter weather as well. With a record number of older vehicles on our roadways, colder temperatures are sure to take a toll. AAA Members can take comfort in knowing that help is only a phone call away. “We typically see a high volume of calls for dead batteries, particularly as temperatures drop,” says Dean. “No one wants to have their holiday plans derailed by a breakdown and yet AAA expects to respond to hundreds of thousands of Emergency Roadside Service calls over the year-end travel period.”
AAA rescued nearly 920,000 motorists nationwide over the year-end holiday travel period last year, with nearly 16,000 in Virginia alone. Drivers are reminded to always Slow Down and Move Over for AAA Roadside Assistance vehicles, tow trucks, police, and other emergency, first responders. As of July 1st of this year, Virginia’s ‘Move Over’ law, requires drivers to also slow down, and if possible, move over, for any stationary vehicle displaying hazard lights, flares or emergency signs. “Holiday travel provides ample opportunity for distraction. AAA is urging everyone to slow down and pay attention so you can get where you are going safely and without incident,” said Dean.
AAA Offers the following Tips for Battery Care and Service
Check your tires – At minimum, AAA recommends checking your tires once a month and before taking a long trip. Pay special attention to both tire inflation pressure and tread depth. Be sure to inspect all four tires and the spare tire if your vehicle has one.
Check your battery –
The average car battery life is typically 3-5 years. If your engine is slow to start and/or your lights are dim, your battery may be nearing the end of its life. Visual signs of damage or corrosion are other indicators of deterioration. Book a free vehicle health check at any AAA Car Care, Insurance and Travel Center
in the area or make an appointment at any AAA Approved Auto Repair
location. Testing equipment today can often give you a good sense of how much life a battery has left.
Listen to and feel the brakes – If you hear a grinding sound or feel a vibration when applying the brakes, take your vehicle to an auto repair shop for a brake inspection.
Replace wiper blades and replenish windshield cleaner – Rubber wiper blades naturally deteriorate over time. Most manufacturers recommend replacing them every 6-12 months. If wipers streak or fail to clear the windshield thoroughly, replace the blades.
Top off engine oil and other fluids – Check that engine oil, coolant and brake, transmission and power steering fluids are at the correct levels for safe vehicle operation. When adding fluids, use products that meet the specifications listed in the owner’s manual.
Replenish emergency kit supplies – AAA recommends keeping a well-stocked, winter emergency kit in your vehicle. The kit should include the following:
Abrasive material (sand, salt, cat litter) or traction mats
Flashlight with extra batteries
Window washer solvent
Ice scraper with brush
Extra warm clothing (gloves, hats, scarves), and blankets
Warning devices (flares or triangles)
Drinking water and non-perishable snacks for both human and pet passengers
Basic toolkit (screwdrivers, pliers, adjustable wrench)
Mobile phone, charger and power bank