Despite high gas prices, people will hit the road for the holidays, AAA forecasts
Travel restrictions are loosening. Too soon? Image via AP.

Orlando will be the top destination. Miami, Fort Lauderdale, and Tampa also will be popular.

Sure, gas costs well over $3 per gallon. But that’s not going to stop Americans — including Floridians — from traveling for the holidays way more than last year, AAA is forecasting.

And a lot of them are coming to Florida.

Travel for the holidays — starting Dec. 23 and running through Christmas and New Year’s to Jan. 2, 2022 — should be up 35% compared to last year,  AAA — The Auto Club Group predicts.

2020 holiday travel was severely curtailed by the coronavirus crisis, while this year a great many people are feeling pent up and ready to get away for the holidays with family or on vacations, AAA said.

Holiday travel won’t quite return to pre-pandemic levels. This year’s rush to the roads and air will look more like 2017 than the record movement seen in 2019. Still, the exodus will not resemble last year’s caution.

Orlando will be the top destination for Americans. Miami, Fort Lauderdale, and Tampa also will be in the nation’s top 10, along with Anaheim, California, Las Vegas, New York, Hawaii, Phoenix, and San Diego, AAA reported.

“Americans who canceled their vacations in 2020 want to gather with family and friends for the holidays this year, although they will still need to be mindful of the pandemic,” AAA Vice President Debbie Haas said in a news release. “With vaccines widely available, conditions are much different and many people feel a greater level of comfort with travel this year.”

Nationally, nearly 101 million people will travel by automobile, compared to 78 million in 2020. Another 6.4 million will travel by air, compared to 2.3 million in 2020, AAA forecast. Another 2.9 million will travel by bus, train or cruise ship. Combined, that’s nearly 110 million people moving about in a couple of weeks.

They will include nearly 6 million Floridians who plan to travel, up from 4.4 million last year, the organization said. That includes 5.4 million Floridians traveling by automobile, 304,000 by air, and 211,000 by bus, train, or ship. All of those numbers increase over 2020 levels at about the same rates as the national numbers.

All of this will be happening even though gas prices are more than 30% higher than last year, airfares are 15% higher, hotel rates are 36% higher, and car rental charges are 20% higher, AAA reported.

The organization cautions that masks still are required for everyone on planes, buses, trains, and other forms of U.S. public transportation and within transportation hubs such as airports and stations. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention also recommends everyone wear a mask indoors in public places in an area of substantial or high transmission.

“Travelers should pay careful attention to COVID travel requirements, particularly those journeying outside the United States,” Haas said. “The requirements to enter different countries may vary by destination and over time. Also, Americans should be aware that new rules require them to provide a negative COVID test within a day before reentering the U.S., regardless of their vaccination status.”

In 2020, when pandemic fears were high and travel prices were low, just 82 million people traveled for the holidays. In 2019, the record year, 119 million people did.

Scott Powers

Scott Powers is an Orlando-based political journalist with 30+ years’ experience, mostly at newspapers such as the Orlando Sentinel and the Columbus Dispatch. He covers local, state and federal politics and space news across much of Central Florida. His career earned numerous journalism awards for stories ranging from the Space Shuttle Columbia disaster to presidential elections to misplaced nuclear waste. He and his wife Connie have three grown children. Besides them, he’s into mystery and suspense books and movies, rock, blues, basketball, baseball, writing unpublished novels, and being amused. Email him at [email protected].


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